Thursday, April 26, 2012

He parked where?

Excellent post, Mr. Torvik; speaking of law-related books, I am reading Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion by Seth Stern & Stephen Wermiel.  The book has been a good read so far and I recommend it.  I am just at the part where Warren Burger replaces Earl Warren as Chief Justice.

One criticism that I have of the book is relates to the following passage.  At the start of chapter 10--which is titled "Crime & Criticism"--the authors write:
Brennan observed the hostility directed at Warren firsthand every time he joined the chief justice at a Washington Redskins football game.  Warren's friend, team co-owner Edward Bennett Williams, allows the chief justice to drive his Cadillac right onto the filed before each home game to park behind the goal posts.  The car's arrival invariably elicited hearty boos from the crowds in the stands above.  Without Warren as company, Brennan remained anonymous enough that he could escape such protests undetected.
While I do not doubt that the booing occurred I was disappointed to see that the authors did not identify the source of the anecdote in the source notes at the end of the book.  It would have been nice to know the source.  Anyway, the authors use this passage to illustrate the idea that the American citizens were unhappy with the Supreme Court for its desegregation and criminal law decisions.  This is because  many Americans were for segregation and against the Miranda warning.  

In the larger sense the authors are obviously correct.  After all, people did not display "Impeach Earl Warren" billboards because they were happy with Supreme Court rulings.  But is that what is happening at the Redskins games?  I tend to doubt it.

Imagine you are in the stands at a football game.  You have fought traffic, struggled to find a parking spot, and jostled with your fellow fans to get to your seat.  Then you look down and you see someone driving--as Cadillacs were at the time--the most luxurious car in the country and parking it on the field behind the goal posts.  What would you do?  I suspect that many people would razz the owner of the car by booing.  They would do this without regard to the identity of the person.  I suspect that Justice Brennan escaped the booing when he attended football games without Chief Justice Warren because on those occasions he was not parking a luxury car on the field. 

The other thing that makes me think that the fans were not booing Chief Justice Warren because they identified him as Earl Warren is that I am unaware of any reason to think that people in 1962 were any better at identifying the chief justice than they are today.   

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