Electronic Thesis/Dissertation


The Most Dangerous Branch: The Supreme Court and its Critics in the Warren Court Era Open Access

The United States Supreme Court has, unsurprisingly, attracted considerable scholarly scrutiny. Legal historians, political historians, political scientists and those in the legal academy have devoted much attention to the roles the Supreme Court has played in the governance of this country and in shaping the society in which Americans have lived. One era of the Supreme Court in particular, the so-called Warren Court era that existed from 1953-1969, featured a Court that made invaluable contributions to the project of ensuring that this country, its leaders and citizens came closer to living up to the ideals that the country's sacred constitutional text ostensibly demanded. However noble these efforts by this particular Supreme Court, it attracted a boisterous, sincere and sizable number of forceful critics. Their pervasiveness and relevance of their criticisms influenced the politics and shouting matches of the era. Some of the critics even sat on the Court. The workings of the Court have never required that all of the justices concur in the results and rationales reached in "saying what the law is." Thus some of the more important criticisms of the Court's work came directly from the bench. More notable, however, were the criticisms that attended to the Court's work provided by the broader body politic. Everyone from police officers to noted scholars, conservative intellectuals to aggrieved mothers and fathers, offered pointed criticisms of rulings that they believed were decided incorrectly. For reasons this dissertation attempts to explain, countless Americans from this era recognized not only that they could contribute to a larger conversation about the Court's work but also did so in such a way that their deeds and words were not just idle examples of discontent. They were important contributions to the era's politics, political realignments, legal debates and the lived experiences of so many who could not help but afford attention to a Court that existed as one of the most inarguably important legal tribunals in American history.

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