The term “Warren Court” is often used to describe the era when the Supreme Court of the United States was under the leadership of Justice Earl Warren. This nomenclature when referring to the Supreme Court is very common, so people will also use terms like the “Rehnquist Court,” “Burger Court,” “Taft Court,” and so forth, referencing the chief justice in charge at the time that various decisions were made. Many people regard the Warren Court as one of the most distinctive and notable Supreme Courts, and a number of decisions made by it continue to reverberate in the United States today.
When Chief Justice Earl Warren was initially appointed to the Supreme Court, people assumed that he was a conservative who would continue to support conservative values and goals. He turned out to be a bit of a wild card, however, and under his leadership, the Supreme Court's focus shifted from property rights to personal rights, with decisions based as much on ethical values as legal precedent. The court also turned out to be quite radical in the eyes of contemporaries, although many people take the decisions for granted today.
Under the Warren Court, which lasted from 1953 to 1969, a number of decisions were made in the fields of civil rights and liberties, and in the arenas of judicial and federal power, all of which were bolstered under the court's decisions. A heavy emphasis was placed on the rights of the individual with groundbreaking decisions like the Miranda Decision and Gideon v. Wainwright, in which the court ruled that lawyers must be provided for people who are too poor to afford them.
In the realm of civil rights, the Warren Court rejected separate but equal clauses, attempted to combat segregation, and supported other critical civil rights cases. It also promoted civil liberties that are widely accepted today, like the right to privacy, and it emphasized the separation of church and state while vigorously defending the Bill of Rights. The nature of due process in the United States also changed radically, with many critics feeling that the court went too far in its attempt to protect the rights of individuals.
During the period of time when Chief Justice Earl Warren supervised the Supreme Court, many critics — from lawyers to presidents — decried the decisions of the court. These decisions have continued to stand, however, and in many cases, they have become so integrated into the fabric of society that Americans are surprised to learn that rights they take for granted were once hotly contested.