John F. Dobbyn


In 1965, the Supreme Court was impelled by circumstances of its own making to launch itself on the uncharted course of prospective limitation of its decisions in the field of constitutional rights of the criminal defendant. The evolution of that principle, through the cases that followed its inception in Linkletter v. Walker, provides an interesting chapter in the evolution of the Court itself, with serious implications concerning the Court's relative position in a constitutionally constructed system of government. While Linkletter gave birth to the device of prospective application of constitutional decisions, it was inevitably conceived some four years earlier in the decision of Mapp v. Ohio. An analysis of prospective limitation based only on the criteria discussed in Linkletter would be superficial. To understand its actual causes and effects it is necessary to trace a line of cases beginning fifty-one years earlier.

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