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Warren Court

Racial Discrimination, Voting And Reapportionment, Criminal Procedure, First Amendment, Right To Privacy, Further Readings

From 1953 to 1969, EARL WARREN presided as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Under Warren's leadership, the Court actively used JUDICIAL REVIEW to strictly scrutinize and over-turn state and federal statutes, to apply many provisions of the BILL OF RIGHTS to the states, and to provide opportunities for those groups in society that had been excluded from the political process. During Warren's tenure, the Court became increasingly liberal and activist, drawing the fire of political and judicial conservatives who believed that the Warren Court had over-stepped its constitutional role and had become a legislative body. The Warren Court itself became a catalyst for change, initiating reforms rather than responding to pressures applied by other branches of government.

The Warren Court was committed to the promotion of a libertarian and egalitarian society. The Court used the STRICT SCRUTINY test of constitutional review to strike down legislation that directly abridged the exercise of fundamental rights or narrowed the number of people who might exercise them and to invalidate legislation that discriminated on the basis of race, religion, and other suspect classifications. Under strict scrutiny, the government has the burden of proving that a compelling state interest exists for the legislation and that the law was narrowly tailored to minimize the restriction on the fundamental right. This burden proved difficult to meet during the Warren Court years, turning the federal courts into institutions that protected the interests of politically unpopular individuals and members of relatively powerless minority groups who had been victimized by pervasive historical, political, economic, and social discrimination.

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