Foreword By Janet Napolitano, Governor of Arizona
Table of Contents
  Miranda's Confession
  Right to Counsel
  Privilege Against Self-Incrimination
  Miranda and the Arizona Supreme Court
  Birth of the Miranda Warnings
  John Frank as Architect of the Miranda Doctrine
  John Flynn's Oral  Argument at the Supreme Court
  Gary Nelson's Oral Argument for Arizona
  Thurgood Marshall's Oral  Argument at the Supreme Court
  The Opinion
  The Miranda Warnings
  The Ongoing Debate
  The Dickerson Case
  Miranda's Global Reach

Miranda and the al Qaeda Terror

  Padilla and Hamdi
  False Confessions and the Tuscson Four
  Political Ideology and the Supreme Court
  Dickerson's Legacy
  Gideon's Legacy
  The Evolution of Miranda




from Chapter 8

Political Ideology and the Justices of the Warren Court

Excerpts from pages 163-165

It is not at all clear that Miranda was a product of the Court’s political ideology, that “ideology” being extremely difficult to peg. Courts are cohorts of individual concepts, but Courts also change with new elections or appointments. The Warren Court was characterized by most as “liberal” because its most controversial opinions seemed more acceptable to liberals than conservatives - yet the justices serving under Chief Justice Warren’s administrative leadership could never be pinned down as either liberal or conservative. Each was an outspoken, independent thinker who did not seem to cling to any defined political ideology. Each made the effort to decide each case on its specifics and merits.

Furthermore, the ancestries of Chief Justice Warren and Justices Brennan, Black, Clark, Douglas, Fortas, Harlan, Stewart, and White made their court emblematic of America as a melting pot of political and social mores. They were Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish and from every region in America. Their early lives were spent in the cities of the Northeast, the rural South, the emerging Southwest, the homespun Midwest, and the West Coast paradise. They were Republicans and Democrats who owed their high-bench seats to the presidential politics and merit selection tendencies of both parties. The youngest was forty-nine, the oldest eighty. Justice Black’s tenure on the Court had spanned five presidents whereas Justice White was of a new generation and had joined the bench during the presidency of John F. Kennedy.

It is worth noting that Miranda was decided by a five-to-four majority of the Court. That split demands a look at the five who voted to reverse the convictions. Did Chief Justice Warren and Justices Brennan, Black, Douglas, and Fortas share a common set of concepts about human life or culture? Alternatively, did they have integrated assertions, theories, or aims that might constitute a sociopolitical program?

Liva Baker, author of one of the most comprehensive books written on the Miranda case, believes that the essential commonality among the majority of five was their socioeconomic status while growing up. “Once again,” she writes of the Miranda vote, “the Court had divided along class lines, the justices born to families in humbler circumstances looking at the interrogation room through the eyes of the defendant, those born to families accustomed to privilege and influence looking at it through the eyes of the policeman.”

“Class lines,” alone, however, do not seem to provide a full explanation. Families of modest means constitute over 80 percent of the American population. Liva Baker’s alternative thesis was that the five were connected by way of their “humble origin.” Were they in fact all of an origin that can be defined as humble?

Chief Justice Earl Warren was born in Los Angeles in 1891. Educated at the University of California, he was admitted to the bar in 1914 and served one term as attorney general of California and three terms as governor of California before becoming the Republican candidate for vice president in Thomas E. Dewey’s 1948 campaign. President Eisenhower appointed Warren as the fourteenth chief justice in 1953, and he served on the Court until his retirement in 1969. No one ever described him as humble or as a man of modest means.

Justice Hugo Lafayette Black was born in Harlan, Alabama, in 1886. He was educated at the University of Alabama and served in the United States Senate. President Roosevelt appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1937. He certainly favored individual freedom and was best known for his literal interpretation of the First Amendment. He authored the Gideon opinion, dissented in Griswold v. Connecticut, and served on the Court until 1971. He can fairly be described as a man of the people and perhaps even as self-effacing.

Justice William Brennan served on the Court for thirty-four years under eight presidents. Born in Newark, New Jersey, and educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School, he rose to the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army. President Eisenhower appointed him to the Court in 1956. He was an intellectual and a fierce advocate against capital punishment.

Justice William O. Douglas hailed from Maine, Minnesota, and was educated at Whitman College and Columbia University. He taught law at Columbia and Yale before being appointed to the Court by President Roosevelt. He served on the Court for thirty-six years, longer than any other justice did. He was said to be liberal on social issues, balanced on economic issues, and conservative on international issues. His clerks thought him proud, not humble.

Justice Abe Fortas was born in Tennessee and educated at Yale. First in his class, he was appointed to the faculty at Yale upon his graduation. He served the government in various capacities from 1937 to 1946 and was a regular adviser to many national leaders, including President Johnson, who appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1965. Fortas may have had the shortest tenure on the Court with his resignation in 1969. His role in academics, government, and high-end law practice hardly qualified him as a man of the people.

Two of the five majority justices were Republicans, three were from large cities, and three attended prestigious private law schools. All did well financially and all were experienced in the ways of politics and business at the time they formed the majority in the Miranda decision. They were not consistently on the same side of controversial issues and often dissented in cases where one or the other wrote the majority decision.

At least from this limited look at their lives, one can not easily conclude that a common ideology drove their decisions.


Miranda: The Story of America's Right to Remain Silent
Copyright © 2004, Gary L. Stuart. All rights reserved.
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page last revised: 10/25/04