The Supreme Court: Leaving the Court

Leaving the Court

Warren definitely liked to control the situation. He even thought he could be involved in the decision of who would replace him. He sent a letter of resignation in June 1968 hoping to give President Lyndon B. Johnson the opportunity to appoint his successor rather than the next president.

His decision backfired. Johnson nominated Abe Fortas (already an Associate Justice), but he was never confirmed. Opposition to his nomination was primarily from southern Democrats and conservative Republicans, who stalled a vote in committee, which is still a common practice today when the Senate is considering judicial appointments (filibustering).

The Senate Judiciary Committee vote was stalled by opponents of Fortas until after the summer break. By the time the committee took up the nomination in September, information was uncovered that Fortas was paid to teach a seminar at American University with funds partially contributed by clients of Fortas' former law practice. Opposition mounted to his nomination and the Senate was unable to cut off debate because several Senators decided to filibuster the nomination. Fortas asked Johnson to withdraw his name.

Warren served one more year on the court and President Richard Nixon appointed his successor—Warren Burger. Next we'll look at how Burger changed the tone of the court and worked to reverse much of what Earl Warren accomplished.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to The Supreme Court © 2004 by Lita Epstein, J.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.