UC Berkeley News


Warren Court’s 50th the focus of Boalt Hall conference

18 February 2004



Chief Justice Earl Warren

Fifty years ago, in March 1954, Berkeley alum Earl Warren, ’14, Law ’16, was confirmed as Chief Justice of the United States. In the 16 years of his leadership, the Warren Court set in motion sweeping and durable changes in American law for the advancement of equal rights for all Americans.

The legacy of the Warren Court both in American law and in foreign legal systems will be commemorated at an international conference, “Earl Warren and the Warren Court: A 50-Year Retrospect,” featuring prominent historians, legal scholars, and political scientists from the United States and abroad. Conference dates are Friday, Feb. 27, and Saturday, Feb. 28, in 140 Boalt Hall.

“The unparalleled influence of the Warren Court on our system of justice and on equal-rights ideals of course goes far beyond its most famous ruling, in the school-desegregation case of Brown v. Board of Education,” says Harry Scheiber, the Riesenfeld Professor of Law and History at Boalt and director of the conference. "Hence we will have some of the country's most eminent scholars in American constitutional law, history, and political science appraising the fuller range of Warren Court influence. An equally interesting subject, the court's impact on foreign judiciaries and legal systems, will be addressed by a set of distinguished speakers from overseas universities and law practices."

The 50th anniversary of Warren’s chief justiceship, Scheiber adds, also offers the campus and especially the law school an appropriate opportunity to reflect on the judicial career of what he terms one of Berkeley’s most illustrious graduates — “a man recognized by admirers and critics alike as having played a uniquely influential role in shaping both modern American law and international legal norms in regard to human rights.”

The conference will begin at 9 a.m. on Friday, with sessions on Earl Warren as a man and as a judge, featuring a former Warren law clerk, Professor Jesse Choper, the Earl Warren Professor of Law at Boalt Hall. Additional papers that morning and afternoon will feature analyses of the Warren Court’s history and its impact on law with respect to freedom of speech and press, criminal justice, the one-person/one-vote principle, and the court’s relations with Congress. Among the principal speakers presenting on Friday are law professors William Van Alstyne of Duke University, Yale Kamisar of the University of Michigan, and Sheila Foster of Fordham University. Berkeley faculty speakers include Philip Frickey and Malcolm Feeley of Boalt Hall, and political scientists Bruce Cain, Nelson Polsby, and Gordon Silverstein.

Saturday’s program, also running from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (with a lunch break), will turn to the Warren Court’s role in the transformation of American federal-state relations, a crucial set of changes that is now under severe challenge by a Rehnquist Court majority. Speakers on this theme are Charles McCurdy, chair of the history department and professor of law at the University of Virginia, and Vicki Jackson, of the Georgetown University law faculty.

Additional sessions on Saturday explore the theme of foreign influence, with papers on Canadian law by noted litigator and criminal-law/human-rights scholar Edward Greenspan of Toronto; on Latin America by Javier Couso of Chile; on East Asia by Tom Ginsburg of the University of Illinois Law School and by Kahei Rokumoto, emeritus professor at University of Tokyo and formerly the Sho Sato Visiting Professor at Boalt Hall. How the Warren Court’s jurisprudence affected law and judicial norms both in European national systems and in the European community will be the subject of papers by Kjell Ake Modéer, professor of legal history at Lund University in Sweden, and Eivind Smith, constitutional-law professor at Oslo University in Norway.

The Saturday afternoon session will conclude with a panel on “The Warren Court’s Impact on American Legal Culture,” featuring legal historians Lawrence Friedman of Stanford Law School, Laura Kalman of UC Santa Barbara, Susan Sterett, professor of political science at Denver University, and Berkeley’s Scheiber; William Banks, professor emeritus of African American studies; and Goodwin Liu, acting professor of law at Boalt Hall.

The conference, organized and hosted by the Earl Warren Legal Institute, is co-sponsored by the Institute of Governmental Studies, the Center for the Study of Law and Society, the Jefferson Lectures Committee, the American Society of Arts & Sciences, and the Robbins Collection at Boalt Hall. For details visit www.law.berkeley.edu/cenpro/earlwarren/constlaw.html or contact the Earl Warren Legal Institute (e-mail ewli@law.berkeley.edu or phone 642-5125).

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