[FoRK] Chief Justice William Rehnquist died Saturday at age 80

Stephen D. Williams sdw
Sat Sep 3 20:39:57 PDT 2005


Chief Justice Rehnquist has died

Saturday, September 3, 2005; Posted: 11:29 p.m. EDT (03:29 GMT)

Chief Justice William Rehnquist
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William H. Rehnquist
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who helped shift 
the U.S. Supreme Court toward a more conservative ideology and strongly 
supported states' rights during his three decades on the bench, has died.

Rehnquist, who presided over the court for nearly 19 years, was 80.

Rehnquist, who had been receiving chemotherapy and radiation for thyroid 
cancer, died at an Arlington, Virginia, hospital surrounded by his three 
children, a court spokeswoman said.

He was working in his office until a few weeks ago," CNN Producer Bill 
Mears said.

"He loved his job and continued to work until the very end," he added.

The chief justice was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in October 2004, not 
long after the 2004-2005 court session began, and received outpatient 
radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

Rehnquist adjourned the court in late June amid speculation that he 
would resign before justices reconvened in October for the new term. He 
quashed that idea in July, hours after he left a hospital where he was 
treated for a fever.

"I want to put to rest the speculation and unfounded rumors of my 
imminent retirement," he said in a written statement. "I am not about to 
announce my retirement. I will continue to perform my duties as chief 
justice as long as my health permits." He returned to work the following 

Rehnquist's announcement followed the surprise retirement of 75-year-old 
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on July 1.

After Rehnquist began his cancer treatments, he worked at home until 
March 21, causing him to miss oral arguments in a number of cases. He 
attended President Bush's inauguration January 20 to administer the oath 
of office, but stayed on the platform for less than 15 minutes.

On his first day back at work in March with the other justices, 
Rehnquist showed no emotion, paid sharp attention to the argument 
presented in the first case and asked eight or nine technical questions. 
His voice was fairly strong; he had a tracheotomy tube in his throat to 
assist his breathing.

Rehnquist was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1972 by President Nixon 
and was elevated to chief justice in 1986 by President Reagan, replacing 
Warren Burger.

In that role, he led the closed-door conferences where justices discuss 
and vote on cases; assigned who wrote the majority rulings; managed the 
docket; controlled open court arguments; and supervised the 300 or so 
court employees, including clerks, secretaries, police and support staff.

Rehnquist, who belonged to a loose, 5-4 conservative majority, was the 
second-oldest man to preside over the nation's highest court.

Early in his tenure, he often was the lone dissenter, despite the 
presence of two other Republican appointees. He served on the bench 
under seven presidents.

David Yalof, a constitutional law professor at the University of 
Connecticut, credited Rehnquist with moving the court in a consistent, 
conservative direction.

"He was able over time to gather colleagues together cordially, manage 
tension, build a majority and turn them over to his point of view," 
Yalof said.

Rehnquist followed the legal philosophy of judicial restraint, which 
interprets the U.S. Constitution narrowly.

He believed the only rights protected by the Constitution are those 
specifically named, and that justices should consider the framers' 
original intent when making rulings.

Shortly after Nixon named him as an associate justice, Rehnquist and 
Justice Byron White were the only dissenters in the landmark Roe v. Wade 
case (1973), which established that a woman's right to an abortion was 
protected under a woman's right to privacy.

"To reach its result, the court necessarily has had to find within the 
scope of the 14th Amendment a right that was apparently completely 
unknown to the drafters of the amendment," Rehnquist wrote in his dissent.

The chief justice strongly supported states' rights, and usually took a 
state's side when it was sued over violating federal law on issues such 
as age discrimination or the Americans with Disabilities Act.

He supported the death penalty, homosexual rights and free speech.

In 2003, Rehnquist broke ranks with fellow conservatives by offering a 
rare rebuke against states' rights.

In the Hibbs case, a state worker was given the right to sue Nevada 
officials under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act for denying him 
time to care for his ailing wife. Rehnquist contended Congress had the 
right to address a record of sex discrimination against women and men in 
the workplace.

"He showed real diplomacy in moderating his viewpoint to satisfy the 
larger concerns of the court, to put his stamp on a ruling with wide 
impact," said Yalof.

In 1999, Rehnquist became the second chief justice in U.S. history to 
preside over a presidential impeachment -- that of President Bill 
Clinton, who was acquitted.

Rehnquist was a student of the court when he wasn't there.

He wrote books on its history and on the impeachments of Justice Samuel 
Chase and President Andrew Johnson.

Jay Jorgensen, a 1999 judicial clerk for Rehnquist, said Rehnquist was a 
gifted administrator.

"You have to give credit to his unbelievable success moving the justices 
to where he always believed they should go," said Thomas Goldstein, a 
leading Supreme Court litigator.

Having already sat on the court for 14 years, Rehnquist quickly matured 
in the role of chief justice. He cut the number of cases the court 
agreed to hear, streamlined conferences and sought clearer, strongly 
reasoned opinions.

Jay Jorgensen, a former clerk for the chief justice, said it was the 
little things Rehnquist did that built personal trust, loyalty and 
respect among justices who were often sharply divided ideologically.

"He set up a system during conferences where every justice, one by one, 
in order of seniority, is allowed to weigh in on a case," Jorgensen 
said. "There is no free-for-all debate, the chief justice does not allow 

Still, legal scholars agree Rehnquist's legacy has some holes.

Despite the court chipping away slightly at the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, 
the right to an abortion remains the law of the land.

"On affirmative action and Miranda rights, among other things, Rehnquist 
hasn't gotten everything he wanted," said Tom Goldstein, a partner in a 
Washington, D.C.-based law firm that handles only Supreme Court cases.

"Across the board there are disappointments. The stakes remain high, 
there are still many 5-4 votes, but he has been successful keeping the 
individual battles from turning into larger wars."

William Hubbs Rehnquist was born in Shorewood, a suburb of Milwaukee, on 
October 1, 1924. His father was a paper salesman. Rehnquist married 
Natalie Cornell of San Diego, and they had a son and two daughters.

After serving in the Air Force in World War II, Rehnquist attended 
Stanford University, where he earned a bachelor's degree, followed by a 
master's in political science in 1948. He received another master's in 
government at Harvard in 1950, before returning to Stanford for a law 
degree. He graduated first in his class in 1952.

His friends described Rehnquist as warm and witty, with a love for poker.

Jorgensen recalled a small party Rehnquist hosted at his home with 
former clerks.

"We were playing charades, and he was very good at it -- funny, animated 
and enormously sharp," he said, "but also a stickler we play by the 
rules, and ensuring the fairness of the game. That sums up what kind of 
person he is, inside and outside the court."

swilliams at hpti.com http://www.hpti.com Per: sdw at lig.net http://sdw.st
Stephen D. Williams 703-724-0118W 703-995-0407Fax 20147-4622 AIM: sdw

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