Justice Harlan Essay, Research Paper
John Marshall Harlan II was born on May 20, 1899 in Chicago, Illinois. He was born to John Maynard Harlan, an attorney, and Elizabeth Flagg Harlan. John Marshall Harlan II came from a long line of political servants, of whom his grandfather is probably most notable. John Marshall Harlan I, whom John Marshall Harlan II was named after, sat on the Supreme Court as an Associate Justice from 1877 to 1911. Johan Marshall Harlan II is best remembered as the lone dissenter of the separate but equal’ defense to the upholding of Plessy v. Ferguson.
John Marshall Harlan II followed in his family’s footsteps regarding the furthering of his education. In 1920, Harlan graduated with honors from Princeton, thus receiving his B.A. Harlan went onto Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar to do his graduate work, and returned to the United States upon completion in 1923.
After returning from England, Harlan began working for a law office in New York. At the same time, he was studying law at the New York Law School. In 1925 Harlan received his law degree and was admitted to the New York bar. In 1931 John Marshall Harlan II became a partner in the firm he’d begun working in while attending law school, and spent much of his early career working for the firm.
Harlan was appointed an Assistant U.S. Attorney for New York in 1925. He also served as a Special Assistant Attorney General from 1928 to 1930. Prior to working as Special Assistant Attorney General, Harlan married Ethel Andrews, with whom he had one child.
During World War II, Harlan served as a colonel in the United States Army Air Force. Harlan was in charge of the Operations Analysis Section of the Eighth Bomber Command. He was also the recipient of the American Legion of Merit and the Belgian and French Croix de Guerre.
After the war, Harlan returned to his practice. From 1951 to 1953, Harlan served as a chief counsel to the New York State Crime Commission. During his time as chief counsel, Harlan helped to investigate illegal gambling, as well as waterfront rackets in New York City. During his time as chief counsel, Harlan helped to investigate illegal gambling, as well as waterfront rackets in New York City.
In 1954, President Eisenhower appointed Harlan to the United States Court of Appeals. Less than a year later, Eisenhower nominated Harlan to the Supreme Court. On March 16, 1955, the U.S. Senate confirmed Eisenhower’s appointment of Harlan 71 to 11, and Harlan began his sixteen year term in the High Court.
Harlan has often been called the “intellectual leader of the conservatives on the Court.” Harlan was known to clash with the other members of the liberal Warren Court, often authoring the dissenting opinion of the Court. Harlan strongly believed in states’ rights as well as individual rights. Although Harlan was well known as a conservative, he frequently voted on the side of the liberals, and sometimes wrote the majority opinion. In 1955, Harlan was a part of the Court’s unanimous decision to direct the district courts to take appropriate action to end the racial segregation in public schools, which had been declared unconstitutional in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. Ironically, the Brown decision John Marshall Harlan II was trying to expedite the compliance of, was the case that overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, the case John Marshall Harlan I had dissented against in 1896.
While sitting on the Warren Court, Harlan was involved in several well known decisions including Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), Miranda v. Arizona (1966), and Tinker v. Demoines (1969) . In Gideon v. Wainwright, the question addressed was one of whether or not a criminal was entitled to a court appointed attorney if he/she could not afford one. The court voted unanimously in favor of Gideon, and Harlan issued a concurrence.
In Miranda v. Arizona, the question was whether or not Miranda’s confession, which was coerced by police, had violated his Fifth Amendment rights. The Court found in favor of Miranda, with Harlan issuing a dissenting opinion. Harlan felt that the Miranda decision looked down upon the professionalism of law enforcement, and that it would hinder the outcome of many police interrogations.
Finally, in Tinker v. Demoines, a case which involved the First Amendment and its Free Speech Clause, Harlan again dissented. He felt that the school’s rule regarding the wearing of arm bands was legitimate, and therefor the Tinkers did not have a legitimate complaint.
Harlan seems to have been a justice that wasn’t afraid to sway. If he felt that the Constitution protected a right, he had no problem voting in favor of it. Nor did he have any trouble voting against something if he felt it to be unconstitutional. There were many times that Harlan was not in the majority, but he freely wrote his dissents explaining his views and reasoning for deciding the case in the manner he did.
Due to failing health and eyesight, Harlan retired in September of 1971. He died only three months later, on December 29, 1971. Harlan had been widely respected, even by his Warren Court opponents, and was missed for his “thoroughness, candor, and civility.”