Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Earl Warren was a decent, personable, and humane man who had the good fortune to preside over the Supreme Court of the United States at a peculiarly propitious moment. That, surely, is enough to say for any man's lifetime, and someday the definitive biography of Warren will say it. In the meantime, it remains some-thing of a mystery why aging liberals find it necessary to canonize the late Chief Justice. Nevertheless, journalist Jack Harrison Pollack's Earl Warren: The Judge Who Changed America is the latest addition to the Warren hagiography. In it you meet Warren,the self-effacing, underpaid, young District Attorney; Warren, the legal scholar; Warren, the Supreme Court's "most influential member"; Warren, the ever-wise, ever-virtuous Chairman of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy; and Warren, the internationalist, who so opened the door to rapprochement with the People's Republic of China that the Nixon Administration's efforts were merely a formality.

In fairness, it must be said that Mr. Pollack tries to present a balanced picture, but his heart just is not in it. Thus, Pollack admits that some of Warren's actions before his appointment to the bench were less than noble, and that some of Warren's opinions for the Court were less than notable. At the same time, however, he adjures us to "restrain the temptation to over-moralize about some of Warren's less noble actions." Pollack himself should have exercised such restraint when commenting on Warren's more noble actions. Unfortunately, he did not, and the biography makes its points by hyperbole, innuendo, and inaccuracy.

Indeed, the flavor of the book may be captured in one unforgettable sentence: "Everything that Warren wrote was obviously important; all his observations were balanced and fair; all his conclusions were unexceptionable."' That some of America's most brilliant legal scholars did in fact take strong exception to Warren's writings is not noted.