U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts might be the last person to surprise a nation like Chief Justice Earl Warren.
Both Republicans, they have surprised the nation, though Warren may have been more of a shock and delivered on the promise of civil liberties faster.
Being a California Republican, Warren probably should not be considered as paterfamilias with an Indiana-grown party member, a “professional Republican.” Roberts’ birth in New York state may have confused him more than Notre Dame high school in Long Beach, Ind., could sort out.
Throw into the algorithm that Warren was a member of a secret Gun club, whose union-leading father was murdered, before becoming a World War I veterans, the future Supreme Court justice was an enigma.
His political future might have been guaranteed after being elected governor of California three times, even tough President Dwight Eisenhower defeated him in 1952, except for one miscue.
He ordered the internment of 120,000 Japanese after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Later, he conceded he had made a human rights’ error of huge proportions.
More importantly, after Eisenhower rewarded him for backing off in the presidential campaign by making his chief justice, Warren’s court turned the nation around more than any American since President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He didn’t always write the majority opinion, but he led the way.
Warren is perhaps best known for ending school integration, but he also insisted on one-person, one vote, rights of due process, the Miranda warning to defendants and rights of free speech.
He will be forever denounced by evangelicals for banning school prayer.
Harvard graduate Roberts hasn’t gone as far as Warren, but perhaps he didn’t have as much to make up for.
Roberts and fellow Republicans repeatedly backed off on civil rights’ guarantees.
But more recently he has bucked his Republican supporters by twice. And even though he voted with the minority, his court approved same-marriage. The court, returning to a Warren theme, knocked down a common practice for gerrymandering, with Roberts again voting with the minority.
Had the chief justice taken bullet for his country? Conservatives felt betrayed. Some said he lacked courage.
The Jeffrey Toobin wrote in the New Yorker: “For today, it is enough to say that the Chief Justice and the Court did the right thing in one of the most important cases that they will ever decide. That was by no means inevitable or even foreseeable. It is, rather, something to savor.”