It was announced that Justice Rehnquist passed away earlier this evening. He was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last October, but decided to continue serving on the Court as ong as his health permitted. He was the 16th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
His death ends a 33-year career on the land's highest bench and will allow President Bush to appoint a second nominee to the court since the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Confirmation hearings are to begin on Tuesday for John Roberts, nominated to replace Justice O'Connor, but it's not known how Justice Rehnquist's death will affect the hearings. Note: FoxNews reports that it's been announced that the hearings will gone on as scheduled.
From MyWay News:
In 1999, he presided over Bill Clinton's impeachment trial from the presiding officer's chair seat in the Senate, something only one other chief justice had done. A year later he was one of five Republican-nominated justices who voted to stop presidential ballot recounts in Florida, effectively deciding the election for Bush over Democrat Al Gore.
"The Supreme Court of Florida ordered recounts of tens of thousands of so-called 'undervotes' spread through 64 of the state's 67 counties. This was done in a search for elusive - perhaps delusive - certainty as to the exact count of 6 million votes," he wrote.
Rehnquist, who championed states' rights and helped speed up executions, is the only member still on the court who voted on Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion. He opposed that decision, writing: "Even today, when society's views on abortion are changing, the very existence of the debate is evidence that the 'right' to an abortion is not so universally accepted as (Roe) would have us believe."
He believed there was a place for some religion in government. He wrote the 5-4 decision in 2002 that said parents may use public tax money to send their children to religious schools. Two years later, he was distressed when the court passed up a chance to declare that the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is constitutional.
"The phrase 'under God' in the pledge seems, as a historical matter, to sum up the attitude of the nation's leaders, and to manifest itself in many of our public observances," he wrote.
He at first had planned to be a college professor, but a test showed him suited to the legal field. In 1952, he graduated first in his class at Stanford University's law school, where he briefly dated O'Connor, the high court's first female justice.
Rehnquist caused great amusement when he departed from tradition by adding four shiny gold stripes to each sleeve of his black robe in 1995. The flourish was inspired by a costume in a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta.
A close student of the Supreme Court's traditions and history, he was a stickler for decorum. He frequently admonished hapless lawyers who did not show what Rehnquist regarded as proper courtesy in the courtroom. His gravelly monotone silenced any who kept talking past their allotted time.
He was the enthusiastic host of an annual, old-fashioned employee Christmas party at the court. At a time when many schools, government offices and private businesses quietly did away with overtly Christian holiday symbols, Rehnquist led the singing of traditional Christmas carols.
Rehnquist has led a quiet social life outside the court (a widower since 1991-editor). Until recently, he walked daily, as tonic for a chronic bad back, and played tennis with his law clerks. He enjoyed bridge, spending time with his eight grandchildren, charades and a monthly poker game with Scalia and a revolving cast of powerful Washington men. He liked beer, and smoked in private.
The only chief justice older than Rehnquist was Roger Taney, who presided over the high court in the mid-1800s until his death at 87. Rehnquist was also closing in on the record for longest-serving justice. Only four men were on the court 34 years or longer.
Possible replacements include Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and federal courts of appeals judges J. Michael Luttig, Edith Clement, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Michael McConnell, Emilio Garza, and James Harvie Wilkinson III. Others mentioned are former Solicitor General Theodore Olson, lawyer Miguel Estrada and former deputy attorney general Larry Thompson.