Earl Warren’s justice
Re “Justice with empathy,” Opinion, May 24
Missing from the list of personal influences that may have led to Chief Justice Earl Warren’s “liberal” (or, more accurately, “liberating”) judicial temperament was, perhaps, the most important pillar of any institution’s sound and mature judgment: the ability to learn from one’s mistakes.
As California’s attorney general in early 1942, Warren strongly supported the illegal internment of the state’s Japanese Americans, a racially motivated, morally bankrupt, fear-mongering assault on the American concept of justice if ever there was one.
Later, his regret for his part in supporting such an abuse of power arguably had a huge influence on his judicial character and his precedent-setting leadership in the protection of civil liberties as chief justice.
How hopeful that our new national leadership appears to possess, as Warren did, the wisdom and political courage to squarely face our recent ethical and tactical misjudgments and restore our constitutional integrity by dealing fairly with the world -- and by appointing justices who care as much about the legacy of the law as they do about laying it down.
As the article points out, while chief justice of the United States from 1953 to 1969, Warren may have shown empathy toward victims and defendants.
However, while California attorney general, he showed no empathy for the Japanese Americans who were unjustly interned in camps, losing their homes, businesses and possessions. No proof of treachery or sabotage by Japanese Americans was ever found. Let us hope that the new jurist on the Supreme Court will have a better history of empathy.
Barbara Mace Otaki
It is curious that the author neglected any mention of Earl Warren’s strong advocacy for the internment of people of Japanese descent during World War II. In the role of chief justice, this man of “empathy” could have been a leading voice for an effort to return property and possessions confiscated from this group of innocent victims.
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