Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made

Jim Newton, Author . Riverhead $32 (614p) ISBN 978-1-59448-928-0

Los Angeles Times editor and reporter Newton delivers the definitive biography of Earl Warren (1891–1974) for this generation. Newton's masterful narrative synthesizes Warren in all his contradictory guises: the dynamic and outsized California prosecutor and attorney general whose own father's mysterious murder perhaps derived from that ambitious career; the man of great liberal instinct who (as a three-term Republican governor of California) insisted on the internment of Japanese-Americans following Pearl Harbor; and the hard-driving Supreme Court chief justice (1953–1969) who'd never sat on a bench anywhere, but nevertheless shepherded such historic decisions as that in Brown v. Board of Education. It was also under Warren that the Court articulated the constitutional right to privacy, abolished prayer in public schools, clarified and guaranteed voting rights for minorities and created a right to counsel in state criminal trials. As well, Warren served as head of the commission bearing his name and charged with examining the Kennedy assassination—an exercise Newton reveals as to have been part investigation, part experiment in public relations and damage control.

In the course of his research, Newton has garnered extensive interviews with Warren's surviving colleagues and children, and uncovered significant new archival sources, all of which he marshals to great effect. For the first time, Newton portrays an intricately complex Warren who—though liberal in his interpretations of the Constitution and progressive in his agenda for America—remained far from radical in other respects. Using testimony of insiders who knew the man well, Newton brilliantly depicts the many-sided Warren as ferociously ambitious, smartly calculating in advancing his career, prickly and contrary when challenged and eminently attracted to both wealth and power. As Newton shows, the ardent judicial defender of the dispossessed summered at California's Bohemian Grove and made a point of dying a rich man.

Warren, writes Newton, "was no Eldridge Cleaver," despite rhetoric by contemporary conservatives who routinely invoke him as the poster boy for "bad behavior" in the form of liberal judicial activism. (Oct. 5)

Reviewed on: 09/11/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 624 pages - 978-1-4362-4741-2
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Paperback - 614 pages - 978-1-59448-270-0
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