June 8, 2010

(Justice Warren Burger - replaced Earl Warren and then some)

Going back to the Nixon Years today with what was hoped to be a yearly event, but never quite accomplished, a State Of the Judiciary address delivered by Chief Justice Warren Burger in 1970.

Burger was a Nixon appointment, after the failed attempt at appointing Abe Fortas to the position during Lyndon Johnson's last months in office. Fortas was the object of a filibuster by Republicans and Warren stayed on until Nixon came to office.

Burger received a decidedly mixed review of his time as Chief Justice. He was instrumental in delivering many of the decisions regarding Nixon and Watergate, but he was also largely instrumental for the trend in deregulation from which we are suffering under today.

In his State of The Judiciary, he decried the lack of funding for the Court and how the Judiciary has changed considerably since the beginning of the 20th century.

Chief Justice Warren Burger: “The Federal courts need, and they need it immediately, a court executive or administrator for each of the eleven circuits and for every busy trial court. We need them to serve as the traffic managers and a sense as have hospitals used Administrators for the past forty years to relieve doctors and nurses of Management duties. We are almost a half century behind the Medical profession. In our basic principles it is indeed important that we maintain our links with the past and build carefully upon those foundations because they are the result of thousands of years of human experience in the evolution of the law. There is great value in stability, predictability and continuity. But the procedures and the methods of the law ought to respond more swiftly. Hospitals, doctors, farmers and businessmen have changed their methods and we must change ours and bring them up to date.”

Ironic that he cites the Medical Profession as a model of efficient advancement, since it was his decision to relax the regulations on Physician Owned Hospitals. And we all know where that headed.

At the end of the address, George Herman of CBS News hosts a round table discussion/assessment of Burger from Senator Sam Ervin, former Attorney General Ramsay Clark and Ernest Friesen. Sam Ervin, as you'll remember, achieved prominence if not pop-star status as Head of the Watergate Hearings in 1973.

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