The Eisenhower Court and Civil Liberties

The Warren Court, the most important modern Supreme Court, continually drew public attention during its 16-year existence from 1953 through 1969. Under the leadership of Chief Justice Earl Warren, the Court changed the nation's attitudes toward civil liberties, due process, equal protection, First Amendment freedoms, and privacy. Most of the accolades of the Warren Court, Vestal points out, are ascribed to what the Court accomplished after justices appointed by President Kennedy joined the Court's liberal bloc to form a solid majority of libertarians who usually upheld civil liberties claims against the government. This consolidation of the libertarian bloc occurred before the beginning of the 1962 term when the Court the public identifies as the Warren Court came into being. The court headed by Warren for nine terms before 1962 can appropriately be called the Eisenhower Court for it existed primarily during the administration of President Eisenhower, a time when moderate Republicans dominated government and probably reflected the prevalent views of society, as opposed to the liberal Democrats who were to come to power in 1961. During that time, from 1958-1962, Eisenhower appointees constituted a five-justice majority on the Court. Their accomplishments were significant in their own right and also set the stage for what the Warren Court subsequently was to do. By comparison with its immediate predecessor, the Eisenhower Court was bolder and frequently reached more libertarian results. This was not difficult because the Vinson Court deferred to the other branches of government so frequently in their substantive restrictions on free expression as to give the impression that the high tribunal had abdicated the field. Vestal examines the work of the Eisenhower Court and its impact on the nation as reported by analysts of that time, and he pays retrospective homage to a Court that has not received proper recognition for its achievements.This book is of particular interest to scholars and students involved with constitutional law, public policy, and 20th-century American history.