The Warren Court (the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren)



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Unit 15: The Cold War heats up and social unrest in America – late 1950’-1970’s

The 1960’s and 1970’s in America was a time of great controversy. In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. During this time, the Warren Court (the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren) also ruled on many cases that affected the rights of the accused and the rights of all citizens. Supreme Court cases such as Miranda v. Arizona, Escobedo v. Illinois, Mapp v. Ohio and Gideon v. Wainright changed how law enforcement can find evidence and prosecute the accused. Engel v. Vitale made it illegal to force students to pray in school, separating Church and State. The Warren Court’s most famous and impactful decision, though, was Brown v. Board of Ed, which helped to start the Civil Rights Movement by declaring segregation illegal.

To try to help the Civil Rights Movement, President John F. Kennedy launched his “New Frontier Program” which tried to pass civil rights laws, end segregation and help blacks with job opportunities. The New Frontier program also put money towards winning the Space Race with Russia and helping impoverished Americans. While Kennedy did try to help America, the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba to overthrow Fidel Castro made him look very bad, although he was able to avoid nuclear war with Russia during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy also began to get America deeper involved in Vietnam. Kennedy was unfortunately assassinated in November 1963. His vice-president, Lyndon B. Johnson took over for him. Johnson continued domestic and foreign policies. Domestically, Johnson continued both Kennedy’s New Frontier and FDR’s New Deal as he spent lots of government money, on his Great Society Program which wanted to help blacks (such as through his Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Affirmative Action) and all impoverished groups through his “War on Poverty” (creating medicare, Medicaid and other spending).

President Johnson also increased America’s involvement in Vietnam (which began under Eisenhower and increased under Kennedy), and with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, he received permission from Congress to use force in Vietnam (although Vietnam was an undeclared war with no formal declaration of war) to protect South Vietnam from Communist North Vietnam. The War lasted from 1965-1975. The Vietnam War was very unpopular because many did not understand the need to go there to stop Communism from spreading and there was a draft, which many rich people were able to buy their way out of. There were many protests, which were especially led by college students. In the worst incident which occurred at Kent State, 4 students were killed by the Ohio National Guard. High School students even protested; in a high school in Des Moines, students were suspended for wearing black armbands to protest the war, however, they sued and in the case of Tinker v. Des Moines, the Supreme Court said that the school violated their first amendment right. Along with students, Civil Rights leaders and even Veterans (Vietnam Veterans Against the War) protested.

President Johnson did not run for re-election and when President Richard M. Nixon won, he began the process of Vietnamization – withdrawing from Vietnam. However, when America left, South Vietnam fell to Communism along with neighboring Cambodia and Laos. Nixon also tried to create a policy of détente (reduction of nuclear arms) with Russia and open diplomatic talks with Communist China.

There was several legal backlash from the Vietnam War. Congress passed the War Powers Act to limit how long the President can use soldiers without a declaration of war (although future Presidents will ignore this rule since they are Commander-in-Chief). The worst controversy came when papers showing the secret history of the Vietnam War were stolen from the Pentagon (military command center of U.S.) and then leaked to and published by the New York Times. In Nixon v. N.Y. Times, the Supreme Court sided with the New York Times citing the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech and Press.



Yet for all Nixon’s good work on foreign policy, he will probably go down as one of America’s most controversial Presidents for The Watergate Scandal. Nixon was accused of covering up a break-in at the Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. Nixon tried to withhold evidence (claiming executive privilege), but in the case of U.S. v. Nixon, the Supreme Court ruled that no President was above the law. Instead of facing an impeachment trial, President Nixon resigned (and is the only President to do so).

Regents Words and Study Questions – complete both for 2 homework credits

1) New Frontier Program: President John F. Kennedy’s program to help civil rights, impoverished citizens and win the space race with Russia.

2) Bay of Pigs: Failed invasion of Cuba by America to overthrow Fidel Castro.

3) Cuban Missile Crisis: 14 days in October when Russia put missiles in Cuba and America and Russia became dangerously close to nuclear war. Kennedy and Russia had secret talks and Kennedy was able to avoid war by withdrawing missiles from Turkey and Italy.

4) Great Society Program: multi-purpose program by President Lyndon B. Johnson to create Civil Rights laws, affirmative action programs, Medicare, Medicaid and a “War on Poverty.”

5) Civil Rights Act of 1964: Act which ends segregation.

6) Gulf of Tonkin Resolution: When Congress gives President Johnson permission to use U.S. soldiers in Vietnam.

7) Vietnam War: 1965-1975. controversial undeclared war where America tries to stop Communist North Vietnam from conquering South Vietnam. Costs 58,000 American lives. There were many protests (mostly lead by students) against the war.

8) Kent State Massacre: When 4 Ohio students are killed protesting the Vietnam War.

9) Tinker v. Des Moines (1969): Supreme Court rules that children’s first Amendment rights were violated when they were suspended for wearing black arm bands to protest the Vietnam War.

10) Vietnamization: President Richard M. Nixon’s policy of withdrawing American soldiers and letting South Vietnam fight war by itself.

11) Détente: President Nixon’s foreign policy with Russia to try to reduce nuclear tension and weapons arsenal.

12) S.A.L.T. I: Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty I. America and Russia’s agreement to reduce nuclear arms.

13) War Powers Act: Congress’s limiting the amount of time a President can send soldiers overseas without a declaration of war.

14) Nixon v. New York Times: After Pentagon papers were stolen then leaked to the New York Times and published by them, Nixon tried to stop it, but the Supreme Court said that it was Constitutional because of the First Amendment Freedom of Speech and Press.

15) Watergate Scandal: Scandal where President Nixon was accused of covering up a break-in of the Democratic headquarters. President Nixon resigned instead of facing an impeachment trial.

16) U.S. v. Nixon: Supreme Court ruled that the President does not have executive privilege to withhold evidence. No one is above the law.

17) Miranda vs. Arizona (1966)– Establishes police cannot violate a person’s 5th Amendment right to no self incrimination (confession) without being read their rights (become known as Miranda Rights)

18) Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) – Establishes people have the right to a lawyer in court (6th and 14th Amendment rights)

19) Escobedo v. Illinois (1964) – Establishes people have the right to speak to a lawyer when arrested (5th and 14th Amendment right)

20) Mapp v. Ohio (1961)Establishes Police cannot violate a person’s 4th Amendment right to no illegal searches and seizures. Police need a warrant.

21) New Jersey v. TLO (1985) – Establishes that students have 4th Amendment rights to no illegal searches and seizures.

22) Engel v. Vitale (1962)it is illegal to have an official school prayer
Study Questions

1) What were the effects of America getting involved in the Vietnam War?

2) How did Kennedy and Johnson try to improve America?

3) How did the Warren Court affect peoples’ rights?

4) How did the Cold War change during Nixon’s Presidency?

5) What were the Constitutional issues that faced Nixon’s Presidency?


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