Although a relatively young country, the United States has experienced a complex history of oppressing minority groups. In the 20th century alone, there were many major historical events, scientific discoveries, and cultural trends that significantly impacted the ways in which Americans redefined themselves.
Civil rights took a huge step forward during this time; this was largely due to the Supreme Court under Earl Warren. Moreover, reapportionment for elections was dramatically changed to enforce the one person, one vote doctrine. Lastly, criminal procedure was reformed to establish stricter standards for police conduct. Some have argued that the activist actions of the Warren Court exercised too much power.
However, the United States needed a powerhouse, an ambitious person who chases what they believe is right, as chief justice of the Supreme Court. An era of dramatic and liberal change in the U.S. Supreme Court, the Warren Court shaped American identity by playing a great role in the Civil Rights Movement, reforming elections, and transforming criminal procedure.There is no question that the Civil Rights Movement would not have made the enormous impact it did without the myriad of U.
S. Supreme Court cases which set precedents and revolutionized American society. Brown v. Board of Education was the main case that transformed the Civil Rights Movement by supplying an impetus. The court ruled that the segregation of white and African American children was detrimental to the established inferior race (Warren). The separation of the races was inherently denoting the subservience of African Americans. This was the case that overturned the Plessy v.
Ferguson decision (West) which said that legislation is ineffective in demolishing racial instincts and that laws allowing segregation did not imply the lowliness of any race (Brown). Per curiams after Brown v. Board of Education extended its scope to include public benches, parks, recreational facilities, and more (White). Another case that signified changing racial views in the United States during was Loving v. Virginia; the court invalidated banning of miscegenous marriages (White). This was significant because it asserted that there were no core disparities between blacks and whites.
Furthermore, Sweatt v. Painter and McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents applied the same principal in Brown v. Board of Education to institutions of higher education (Wohl). Because these decisions were so sudden and liberal, there was a plethora of backlash. For example, Cooper v. Aaron, Goss v.
Board of Education, and Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States are just a few of the many Supreme Court cases that dealt with resistance toward court decisions and judicial power (White). Although this showed that the Warren Court was controversial, all of the commotion caused by apathy toward human rights was worth the gigantic leap that African Americans made in gaining equality. The court also upheld several pieces of civil rights legislation including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (West).In addition to being a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement, the Warren Court played a Brobdingnagian role in reforming elections by setting forth new guidelines for reapportionment. Before the era of the Warren Court, state legislatures did not have to be apportioned with regards to population (White). This contradicted the very basis of United States government which was supposedly democracy. Baker v.
Carr was the first case in which this toxic system began to get corrected; the court announced that Tennessee’s system of electing state legislatures would be examined to determine whether or not it aligned with the population of the districts in the state (White). Additionally, Reynolds v. Sims dealt with reapportionment; this case tested Alabama’s reapportionment system (White) while the Lucas v. Forty-Fourth General Assembly discredited Colorado’s districting system which apportioned a mere one house of the state legislature according to population (White). Overall, reapportionment based on demography produced a transference in political power away from sparsely populated, provincial areas to metropolitan areas (West).
Besides reapportionment, the Warren Court has influenced elections by changing voting traditions. In the U.S. Supreme Court case Harper v.
Virginia Board of Education, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, specifically the part regarding the abolishment of poll taxes, was upheld (Wohl). This manifested the discontent of many Americans with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, the upholdment of the legislation was necessary to show that it is unacceptable to deny rights to American citizens because of their color and previous state of servitude. As well, the Warren Court eradicated limitations to voting such as property qualifications, absurd residency requirements, and hindrances to putting third political parties on the ballot (West); these were clearly aimed at African Americans. The Warren Court changed criminal procedure as it redefined the laws of the states to match their own understanding of constitutional requirements (White). The Incorporation Doctrine cases were a series of criminal procedure cases which revolved around the issue of whether the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause includes procedural protections in the Bill of Rights; these would have made the states susceptible to being scrutinized for not complying with those guidelines for criminal procedure (White). The Incorporation Doctrine cases included Mapp v. Ohio, which made Fourth Amendment protections applicable against unlawful searches and seizures in state trials (White), Benton v.
Maryland, which said that the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment applies to the states, Griffith v. California, which preserved the right of American citizens to avoid self-incrimination; Malloy v. Hogan applied the self-incrimination privilege to proceedings at the state level (White).
Finally, Duncan v. Louisiana concerned the trial by jury clause of the Sixth Amendment in criminal cases (White). The Warren Court modified police conduct in the United States. For example, the Malloy v. United States decision was criminal defendants must see a judge before being investigated (White). Furthermore, Miranda v. Arizona concluded in the creation of constitutional warnings that the police were required to say to the people they arrest, and Escobedo v.
Illinois ruled that a lawyer must be present during investigations if the suspects requested one (White). Gideon v. Wainwright was another case that emphasized police behavior; the Supreme Court ruled that any suspect who could not afford a lawyer would be provided one (White). Practically every part of police interrogation was riddled with constitutional complications (White). This caused far fewer criminal convictions in state trials (White), but the reason behind this was likely that in the years before the Warren Court, there were too many criminal convictions of innocent people.
The Warren Court, a time of dramatic and liberal change in the U.S. Supreme Court, shaped American identity by playing a giant role in the Civil Rights Movement, revolutionizing elections, and revising criminal procedure. American identity was altered because there is more of an acceptance of minorities due to the Civil Rights movement which was heavily impacted by the Supreme Court decisions and upholdments of legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Moreover, the United States is more democratic in terms of voting because of the Warren Court’s annihilation of the ways in which elections can be manipulated.
Lastly, by creating stricter standards for police conduct and broadening the scope of the Bill of Rights to pertain to states, the Warren Court forever changed the American way of life. In my opinion, the Warren Court was an unbelievably amazing period of time for the nation. African Americans were finally given some of the respect that they deserved and had been denied for so many years. I think that the new reapportionment guidelines were so necessary that the fact that it was any different before is unfathomable and insane; it is ridiculous that state legislatures used to base the number of representatives of each state on anything other than population. I also believe that the developments made on criminal procedure were also important because they expanded the Bill of Rights to apply to state trials. Earl Warren was exactly the chief justice that the United States needed.
He was competent and logical; he understood that African Americans and white Americans were the same and merited the same rights. He saw beyond color, and his time as chief justice reflects this flawlessly.