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Chief Justices Earl Warren vs. William Rehnquist

The United States Supreme Court is a federal body that was established to ensure conformity to the requirements and needs of a democratic society. It was accentuated by the urge to pursue social change and freedom among the American people. The Warren Court, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, made significant liberal decisions to balance civil liberties and social order. The resulting social changes have shaped the way of life in the United States up-to-date. His philosophy held that the constitution was a dynamic document that was subject to adjustments based on societal demands and growth. The Rehnquist Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, maintained that the original constitution remained relevant even centuries after its inauguration.

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It is worth noting that the Warren Court pioneered the creation of doctrines such as equality, freedom, and respect for human dignity. This essay provides a comparison and contrast of the approaches used by Warren and Rehnquist to criminal justice procedures and how they reached their rulings. It focuses on their significant decisions and their impact on creating a balance between maintaining social order and individual liberties. The essay provides an insight into the effects of Supreme Court decisions on law enforcement in the United States.

Chief Justice Earl Warren

Born in Los Angeles, California in 1891, Earl Warren was a liberal leader who transformed the judicial system in many ways during the Civil Rights era in America. Earlier, he had assumed active roles during World War I. He was appointed as the 14th Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court in 1953 after losing the battle to claim the Republican presidential nominations ( Editors, 2019). Warren oversaw the formulation of a series of decisions that would change the role of the US Supreme Court. Throughout his tenure, he was regarded as a legal extremist since he remained firm that the constitution is a public document that should not be modified to fit personal interests ( Editors, 2019). He retired in 1969, after 16 years of service as the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist

Chief Justice William Rehnquist was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1924. He took active roles in World War II. Rehnquist served as a Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court from 1971 to 1986, earning the monikers “Lone Ranger” and “Lone Dissenter” due to his consistent decisions to follow his intrinsic political and constitutional rights to vote (Smentkowski, 2019; IvyPanda, 2019). He also made various changes to the American constitution by removing various clauses that supported school integration and the death penalty for criminal offences. He remained in this position until he died in 2005.

Comparison and Contrast of Chief Justices Earl Warren and William Rehnquist

Chief Justices Earl Warren and William Rehn Rehnquist had outstanding yet different perspectives of striking a balance between individual liberties and maintaining social order when presiding over criminal cases. During their tenures as Chief Justices of the United States Supreme Court, they made court decisions on exceptional rulings that touched essential aspects of individual rights, liberties, and law enforcement standards (United States Courts, n.d.). An analysis of cases that they presided over reveals distinct differences in how they arrived at their ruling decisions. While Chief Justice Earl Warren used a more “liberal” approach, William Rehnquist adopted a more “conservative” model (Longley, 2020). The word “liberal” is used in this discussion to describe Warren’s inclination to the protection of individual liberties and human rights in criminal justice. Similarly, the word “conservative” is used to define Rehnquist’s obligation to the government’s stance to prosecute and punish lawbreakers.

During this time, the United States Chief Justice Earl Warren presided over many cases that involved criminal procedures. His rulings were characterized by decisive support for the suspect’s rights and civil liberties. Various incidences demonstrated his unwavering ideology of protecting the rights of people as opposed to conservatism approaches (Longley, 2020). The first case Mallory vs. United States 354 US 449 (1957) involved a rape incident where Mallory was found guilty and sentenced to death. However, the suspect was held in custody for a long time before he admitted his offence. The suspect remained unaware of his right to undertake a preliminary examination before a magistrate. Mallory was never told that his own words could lead to self-incrimination or be used against him in a law court. When the suspect confessed that he had committed the crime, he appeared before a magistrate the next day. Warren’s Supreme Court asserted that the individual rights of the accused had been dishonored (Riggs & Proffitt, 1983). This action was a violation of Rule 5(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which demanded that a defendant appears before a committing magistrate without hesitation.

The William Rehnquist court served more as a transitional body in matters about the execution of criminal procedures. Rehnquist’s rulings went against the jurisprudential accomplishments of the Earl Warren court to protect human rights (Smentkowski, 2019). Overall, he never supported the integration of formal guidelines in the legal process. For instance, the Polorado vs. Connelly (1986) case confirmed that the idea of the due process of the law could be tested. During the trial process, Connelly presented considerable evidence that could be used before the court (Longley, 2020). However, his free will and intelligence ability were inhibited because he had chronic schizophrenia (Smentkowski, 2019). This case reveals an example where the Rehnquist court limited clarification and interpretation of Miranda vs. Arizona case. It was clear that the judgment sought the protection of the defendants against coercion by the government as confirmed in the Fifth Amendment.

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It is essential to note that the Miranda vs. Arizona case was based on constitutional requirements for prosecuting criminals where the jury made judgment by creating equilibrium between individual liberties and fair state. As opposed to Rehnquist, Warren philosophy was hinged on the consideration of apprehended individuals as innocent until proven guilty (UK Essays, 2018; United States Courts, n.d). Along these lines, the Warren Court fulfilled the mandate of protecting the rights of innocent people. On the other hand, the Rehnquist Court of law established that criminal procedural laws risked the state a higher cost in case guilty individuals were let on the loose in the name of safeguarding the innocent from biased conviction (United States Courts, n.d). For example, in the Atwater vs. City of Lago Vista (2001) case that was presided over by Rehnquist, he proved that the police could apprehend a person in the absence of a warrant of arrest if the victim is suspected of having committed a minor offense (United States Courts, n.d.). It is alleged that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the police from conducting such actions.

As opposed to the Warren Court, Rehnquist’s rulings endorsed the concept of “reasonableness clause” under the law enforcement requirements in the Fourth Amendment. As such, it did not support the implementation of severe actions on the plausible cause and the need for a warranty (Riggs & Proffitt, 1983). Therefore, the Rehnquist Court advocated for airborne police searches and invasion of businesses and homes without a warrant from a judge or a magistrate. Additionally, it indorsed a vast range of searches by law enforcement officers in the absence of legal permits, administrative investigation for heavily regulated businesses, and compulsory alcohol and drug testing among public sector staff (Riggs & Proffitt, 1983). These actions show a deviation from adherence to criminal apprehension and prosecution procedures as enlisted in the Fourth Amendment.

The Rehnquist’s Court rulings were inspired by the idea of “crime control” where the accused is deemed guilty of an offense following a course-plotting process as they undergo the criminal justice system. His justice approach had high regard for bureaucratic law enforcement in which the defendant was endowed with some level of freedom unless the police believe that he or she had committed an offence punishable before a magistrate (IvyPanda, 2019). The Rehnquist Court, guided by the principle of crime control, also held the notion that a case could be reviewed if persuasions were petitioned due to technical errors resulting from the police or the law enforcers (Riggs & Proffitt, 1983). In this instance, it was shown that crime control in Rehnquist’s Court played a critical role in creating a balance between individual liberties and the elevation of social order.

Crucial decisions correlating with segregation policies in public schools and miscegenation laws were formulated during the tenure of Chief Justice Earl Warren. The US society believed that the Warren Court did not understand how law enforcement failed following their liberal rulings ( Editors, 2019). Nobody pictured that Earl Warren would become one of the most influential figures in the history of the American judicial system. His court decisions in the 1960s and 1970s had profound implications for the police department. For instance, a nasty disagreement cropped up upon the implementation of the Miranda vs. Arizona case ( Editors, 2019). The Warren’s Court ruled out that accused persons had a right to maintain silence until their lawyer showed up for questioning. This deliberation restricted police officers from obtaining first-hand information from suspects. The court also integrated federal constitutional rights for all states into the Fourth Amendment. As a result, the Exclusionary Rule was inaugurated to prevent the acquisition of evidence forcefully in violation of the law.

Both Chief Justice Rehnquist and Chief Justice Warren encountered challenging cases that needed to coax the majority to agree with their decisions. Warren’s tenure during the Civil Rights era was characterized by drama and controversies regarding issues such as school desegregation, freedom of expression, and separation of church and state, among other debates (IvyPanda, 2019). The Warren Court shaped the constitutional law and reformed criminal procedure in the United States. Indeed, there is no other Court that has ever had similar impacts on American culture. Warren’s decisions were well-thought, and intrinsically pursued to safeguard confidntiality privileges with dignity towards sexual matters (IvyPanda, 2019). His rulings played a critical role in boosting the ideas of liberal reformists who led the country in the face of severe government issues in the 1960s.

Contrastingly, Rehnquist’s tenure occurred in the New Era, and he prepared dissents on several cases. For instance, he defied the decision of Planned Parenthood vs. Casey to endorse a constitutional right to abortion. The Rehnquist Court was rather conservative than liberal, and it made decisions that resulted in significant changes in American law (Riggs & Proffitt, 1983). Unlike Warren’s Court, his court had a much more profound reflection on conservative politics and maintained a steady blind eye to the rights and privileges of charged suspects. Overall, Warren’s philosophies to criminal justice procedure followed a more liberal approach as compared to the Rehnquist Court (Riggs & Proffitt, 1983). While Warren’s rulings were focused on civil rights, criminal procedure, constitutional rights, and economics class, Rehnquist’s decisions were concerned with conformist court protocols and favored the interests of the government.


A comparison and contrast of Warren and Rehnquist revealed that the two Chief Justices played vital roles in shaping the US judicial system. The liberal approach adopted by the Warren Court spearheaded a series of changes that protected the civil liberties of individuals while maintaining social order. He also enlightened people by carefully implementing a law that defended suspects from police questioning and direct accusations. His successor, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, followed a conservative model that hinged on conformist tactics and adherence to conventional laws. Regardless of their opposite philosophies, both Chief Justices had profound effects on the development of the United States judicial system.

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References Editors (2019). Earl Warren. Biography. Web.

IvyPanda. (2019). Earl Warren & WilliamIvylandst. Web.

Longley, R. (2020). The Warren Court: Its impact and importance. Web.

Riggs, R., & Proffitt, T. (1983). The Judicial Philosophy of Justice Rehnquist. Akron Law Review. Web.

Smentkowski, B. (2019). William Rehnquist. Encyclopedia Brittanica. Web.

UK Essays. (2018). Earl Warren vs. William Rehnquist. Web.

United States Courts (n.d.) Facts Case summary-Miranda v Arizona. US Courts. Web.

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