John Harlan II

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John Harlan II
Former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
From: March 17, 1955 – July 3, 1971
Nominator Dwight Eisenhower
Predecessor Robert H. Jackson
Successor William Rehnquist
Party Republican
Spouse(s) Ethel Andrews
Religion Episcopalian

John Harlan II (1899–1971) was an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1955 to 1971, and the grandson of another Supreme Court Justice, John Harlan, who served from 1877 to 1911.

Supreme Court justice

John Harlan II[1] was a very intelligent jurist who expressed conservative dissents on some issues during the Warren Court. Most notably, Justice Harlan dissented from the numerous Warren Court opinions in favor of pornography. He also dissented from the expansion of the incorporation doctrine, particularly on issues of criminal procedure. Justice Harlan is considered one of the most insightful jurists in American history, coining expressions such as the "bright-line rule" and, in defining what the Fourth Amendment should protect in modern times, a "reasonable expectation of privacy."[2] His writing style was clear and crisp.

Justice Harlan sided with the liberal wing of the court in its growing hostility to religion. For example, Justice Harlan joined the decision banning school prayer in Engel v. Vitale and later sided with the liberal wing in Lemon v. Kurtzman.

Justice Harlan also joined the liberal decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, but felt it should be based on an expansive view of the Fourteenth Amendment rather than a penumbra in the Bill of Rights.

Justice Harlan generally opposed the judicial activism that characterized the Warren Court on which he served:[3]

"The Constitution is not a panacea for every blot upon the public welfare nor should this court, ordained as a judicial body, be thought of as a general haven of reform movements."

Justice Harlan's tenure on the Court was almost identical to that of his opposite, Chief Justice Earl Warren, shifted by about two years. Justice Harlan died a few months after he retired.


  1. The "II" is rarely used because there is no confusion between this John Harlan and his grandfather, who participated on the court over 40 years earlier.
  2. Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967) (Harlan, J., concurring).
  3. Reynolds v. Sims (1964) (Harlan, J., dissenting)