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February 22, 2005

The close of the Rehnquist era

From the New York Times:

When the Supreme Court resumes its term on Tuesday, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist will again be absent from the bench because of his illness. Although he is not bedridden and has been regularly attending the justices' private conferences, his empty black leather chair will certainly set off a new round of speculation and chatter about his tenure on the court.

But for senior White House officials, as well as a handful of others who follow the court closely, a working assumption about what is going to happen has already taken shape. The strong expectation, senior administration officials and others said, is that Chief Justice Rehnquist is making his best effort to serve out the remainder of the term that ends in June before resigning. And the only question, they say, is whether the 80-year-old chief justice, who is suffering from thyroid cancer and the effects of his treatment, will be able to do so.

There are two upsides to Rehnquist's departure. The president will be able to replace him with a more Conservative Justice and there's a good chance one of the more conservative justices will be the next Chief justice. I've even heard mention that Clarence Thomas may be the prime choice for the spot.

A lot has been said about Rehnquist's tenure on the court and how he controlled the court. Many feel his departure will change the direction of the court, perhaps away from it's misuse as a tool for legislating. These past few decades have seen the Supreme Court declare itself the virtual Supreme Oligarchy of the United States, usurping the Constitutional powers given to the President and Congress. Rehnquist presided through that coup, and we can only hope his leaving will mark the end of it.

Posted by Jack Lewis at February 22, 2005 11:43 AM

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