chief justice warren burger

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January 22nd 1973: Roe v. Wade

On this day in 1973, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that women have the right to an abortion, thus legalising abortion in the United States. The case was brought to federal court by a Texas woman under the alias of Jane Roe, against Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade, who represented the state. After a decision was made in the district court, the case was referred up through the court system, eventually reaching the nation’s highest court in 1970. The all-male Supreme Court, led by Warren Burger as Chief Justice, ruled 7-2 that a right to privacy under the 14th Amendment covers a woman’s right to an abortion. The majority opinion was written by Justice Harry Blackmun, with Justices Bryon White and William Rehnquist penning dissents. The Roe decision was issued the same day as a related case called Doe v. Bolton which overturned Georgia’s anti-abortion laws. Roe v. Wade was immediately controversial, sparking celebrations in the pro-choice camp and protests from anti-abortion activists. It is still a divisive issue today, with its supporters arguing the decision forms a vital part of a woman’s right over her own body, and those opposed to abortion calling for the decision’s repeal. The Court’s 1973 decision has since been challenged, and abortion rights have been gradually eroded in subsequent rulings, but the fundamental right to an abortion remains.

Linda Greenhouse says the Supreme Court under chief justice Warren Burger, from 1969-86, played a crucial role in establishing the conservative legal foundation for the even more conservative courts that followed.  Assuming President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland continues to be blocked by Congress, the next president will have at least one justice to appoint to a court that is now sometimes stalemated 4 to 4. Greenhouse tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross: 

“It’s hard [not] to think of a single subject area, whether it’s race, crime, women’s rights, abortion rights, the rights of businesses, the future of campaign finance…where the change of a justice or two could make a major change in the outcome.”

Tracing The ‘Rise Of The Judicial Right’ To Warren Burger’s Supreme Court 

Photo of United States Chief Justice Warren Burger and Associate Justices William O. Douglas, William Brennan, Potter Stewart, Byron White, Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, Lewis Powell, William Rehnquist and Tom Clark pose for a portrait on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building July 1974 in Washington, DC. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

Nelson Rockefeller was sworn in as the 41st Vice President of the United States on December 19, 1974, becoming only the second person ever to be appointed Vice President under the 25th Amendment.

Following his nomination Rockefeller underwent an extensive FBI background investigation as Gerald Ford had before him. His confirmation process took much longer than that of Ford, who was well liked by both conservatives and liberals. Rockefeller, on the other hand, was not deemed conservative enough by conservatives while some liberals thought his personal fortune would create a conflict of interest.

Four months later after extended hearings the Senate confirmed Rockefeller as Vice President on December 6. followed by the House of Representatives on December 19. He then took the oath of office, administered  by Chief Justice Warren Burger, in the Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol.