In what was considered unprecedented at the time; a one-on-one interview with a sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, ABC News scored a journalistic coup and did the first interview with Chief Justice Warren Burger on July 1st 1971.
A Nixon appointment in 1969, after a failed attempt by the Johnson Administration to secure the nomination of Abe Fortas to the position, Burger was no stranger to Washington or to Capitol Hill.
As a supporter of Dwight Eisenhower in the 1952 election, Burger was appointed by Eisenhower to the position of Assistant Attorney General, in charge of the Civil Division of the Justice Department, where he argued numerous cases before the Supreme Court. In 1956, he was again appointed by Eisenhower to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia – a position he held until his 1969 appointment.
Viewed as a Conservative and strict-constructionist of the U.S. Constitution, Burger had disagreed with then-Chief Justice Earl Warren on a number of SCOTUS positions. However, after his appointment, many were surprised when Burger, thought to be keen on overturning a number of Warren-era decisions, didn’t and in fact extended many of them.
He was in favor of the Busing provision in the Civil Rights bill, ruled against the Nixon administration’s stand on surveillance and the Fourth Amendment and ruled in favor of the privacy provision for abortions in the Roe v. Wade decision. On the other hand, Burger was opposed to Gay Right and in favor of the Death Penalty.
But Burger drew criticism by many, including the Press, who claimed Burger was “justice in name-only” and was lacking certain leadership qualities and was seen as often prone to changing his position for no apparent reason on a number of occasions.
Burger remained Chief Justice until his stepping down in 1986 to became the longest serving Supreme Court Justice.
To give you some idea of how the Supreme Court was working at the time, here is that exclusive and unprecedented interview with Supreme Court Justice Warren Berger, as broadcast on Radio and Television on July 5, 1971