Effects of Supreme Court Decisions Essay

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¶ … Supreme Court Decisions

The Nature and Purpose of Counseling

Effects of Supreme Court Decisions

Effects of Supreme Court Decisions

The major tenets of criminal procedure are widely known and accepted by Americans. Criminal procedure can be defined as the rights that must be afforded to all suspects and defendants in the criminal justice system (Luna, 1999). It can be viewed as the manner in which the government imposes criminal law. Criminal procedures exist on many levels including local, state, and federal government, each of which has its own criminal codes and definition of crime (Luna, 1999). Federal crimes are typically viewed as those which impact federal interests or involve activities that are outside of the scope of the boundaries of the particular state. These procedures are designed to protect the suspect or defendant during the investigative, prosecution, and punishment phases of the criminal justice process (Luna, 1999). In doing so they directly impact the activities and discretion of law enforcement professionals and establish guidelines that these professionals must adhere to while enforcing the law (Luna, 1999).Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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All laws originate from the Constitution of the United States. The Supreme Court is tasked with interpreting the constitution through the review of specific cases. Through this interpretation, the Supreme Court often enacts changes to the criminal process and its application of equality, rights, and basic protections (Pye, 1968). However, when making decisions that can have an influence of such great magnitude, one must consider how it will impact the ability of law enforcement agencies to deal with criminal behavior and should ensure that the safety of all citizens is a social and political priority (Pye, 1968). Each decision handed down by the Supreme Court must be done in a manner that respects the delicate balance between individual rights and overall social order. An attempt at maintaining this balance can be seen in the tenures of many Chief Justices of the Supreme Court, particularly Chief Justice Earl Warren and Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

Chief Justice Earl Warren held the position of Chief Justice from 1953 to 1969. Earl Warren has been described as a man with solid moral character who was able to utilize his strong values to address the injustices that he believed existed in society and the legal system (Provizer & Vigil, 2003). Warren utilized his commitment to equality and fairness to address issues throughout his entire career. He had an extensive history of service in the public which influenced his tenure as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. His term as Chief Justice has been described as a time of innovation and activist change (Hammond, 2001). The major accomplishments of his time as Chief Justice include equality in voting and criminal proceedings regardless of race or socioeconomic status, removal of organized religious activities from the public schools, and the introduction of the requirement of a Miranda warning to determine admissibility of confessions or evidence into court proceedings (McCloskey, 1965).

During his tenure, the Supreme Court made many decisions that directly impacted the civil rights movement. Warren's decisions while in this position highlighted his strong belief that Americans were entitled to justice regardless of their socioeconomic status or race (Luna, 1999). Further this justice must be delivered in a manner that was fair and equitable. During his tenure Warren influenced decisions on issues such as the rights of criminal defendants, the death penalty, school prayer and the desegregation of public facilities (Luna, 1999). Warren set out to ensure that people of low socioeconomic standing had the same rights and representation of those who had the financial means to secure private legal services (Pye, 1968). Further, he was concerned with the different treatment of races not only within the criminal justice system but also within general society attempting to address issues such as voting and desegregation in his rulings (Pye, 1968). Voting was particularly important for the Supreme Court during this time as the right to vote embodied the heart of a democratic society and failure to allow this action violates the function of equal protection (Provizer & Vigil, 2003).

Chief Justice Warren also focused his attention to the issue of the role of government in religion. His position being that individuals had the right to enact their religious preferences without pressures from any outside institutions including schools (Hammond, 2001). Warren believed in the separation of church and state and enacted decisions that made it unconstitutional for schools to sponsor religious activities such as prayer services and bible readings (Hammond, 2001).

These major themes of his time as Chief Justice can be seen through the decisions handed down in the Supreme Court starting with Brown v. Board of Education (1954) which began the integration of public schools ruling that separate is not equal and therefore violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This ruling is perhaps the most significant ruling during Warren's time as Chief Justice and addressed a pending social change that many lawmakers and citizens had not yet seen coming (Provizer & Vigil, 2003). This ruling was a unanimous one which speaks to the strong stand that the Supreme Court was taking on equality under Warren's leadership. Despite the rejoice that occurred for many when this ruling was handed down, there was also significant concern that this decision may upset the balance of social order and result in violence and social unrest (Provizer & Vigil, 2003).

Another major ruling that impacted civil rights was Mapp v. Ohio (1961) in which evidence from unreasonable search and seizure was deemed inadmissible in court. This began this courts look at what evidence is admitted into court proceedings and made the nature in which the evidence obtained a key factor in admission decisions. This is later followed up with a ruling regarding the admission of confessions in Miranda v. Arizona (1966) which determined that suspects must be informed of their rights through the use of what has publicly become known as the Miranda warning. In the initial ruling, the Supreme Court attempted to ensure that procedural safeguards were implemented to protect the suspect during the investigation and interrogation processes (Pye, 1968). The ruling outlined what essential requirements had to be met in order for a confession to be considered admissible in court.

This ruling directly impacted a number of precedents that had allowed the seizure of non-testimonial evidentiary material and the use of informants by police without the expectation that the identity of the informant would be revealed (Pye, 1968). It also negated a precedent that an individual could be stopped and searched if the police officer observed unusual behavior that may suggest potential criminal activity (Pye, 1968). Under the Supreme Court ruling, confessions and evidence must be obtained in an appropriate manner and the process by which law enforcement obtain evidence now came under scrutiny by the court system. This ruling was probably the most controversial ruling of Warren's tenure and was met with much opposition by those who believed that a confession was vital to securing a conviction and should be obtained through any means necessary.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist served in this capacity from 1986 to 2005. This was preceded by 14 years of service on the Supreme Court prior to his appointment as Chief Justice.

Rehnquist's approach significantly differed from that of Chief Justice Warren and he impacted many of the same issues with his own perspective and enthusiasm. Rehnquist was a conservative and his voting during his tenure on the Supreme Court and as Chief Justice reflected this as he consistently voted to overturn liberal decisions that came out of the state court and to uphold conservative rulings (Davis, 1992). Rehnquist was influential in getting others to come around to his conservative viewpoints, however, he has also been viewed as interrupting social progress (Davis, 1992). The major themes of his tenure include the defense of school prayer, opposition to affirmative action, support of capital punishment, and anti-abortion.

Rehnquist has been viewed as having a judicial philosophy that emphasizes a specific order of judicial values starting with the most important value to federalism, followed by the value of private property, which consistently outranked the importance of the rights of individuals (Davis, 1992). Davis (1992) attests that Rehnquist's support for federalism was directly influenced by the conservative nature of the result and it may simply be that federalism more often results in conservative outcomes.

A major difference to Rehnquist's approach stemmed from his fundamental disagreement with Warren on the church state jurisprudence (Provizer & Vigil, 2003). His rulings continued change that had already been begun by his predecessor as he consistently voted to support free exercise of religion and against the restriction of the establishment of religions activities and practices (Provizer & Vigil, 2003). Rehnquist argued that the Constitution simply intended to protect against the establishment of a religion of the state and did not call for the separation of church and state that his predecessors believed in (Lacayo et al. 1993). Many of his votes on this… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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