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Article

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Abstract

Justice William J. Brennan's eminent, if not pre-eminent, position in the annals of the Warren Court is now well established. The depth and clarity of his vision, the lucidity of its doctrinal expression, and his uncanny knack for creating crucial court majorities from the splinters of disparate perspectives have all been amply documented. In the words of one commentator, "To the extent that the Court over which Warren presided has any intellectual legacy that is accessible to those trained in doctrine and not in ethics, it is Brennan who is responsible." In this essay I shall attempt to isolate and assess Brennan's distinct contribution to that legacy.

The immense influence of the Warren Court on American constitutional law can ultimately be traced to three discrete achievements: The reconstruction of constitutional law on individualist principles; the redesign of doctrine based upon a pragmatic conception of legal rules; and the vigorous articulation and revivification of egalitarian values. Although Justice William J. Brennan importantly participated in all three of these achievements, his work as a Justice was particularly decisive for the first two.

Date of Authorship for this Version

1991

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