03 September 2005

BREAKING NEWS: Chief Justice Rehnquist dies

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, the ultraconservative activist jurist on the nation's highest court, has passed away at his home in Virginia. Rehnquist was 80 years old.

"The Chief Justice battled thyroid cancer since being diagnosed last October and continued to perform his dues on the court until a precipitous decline in his health the last couple of days," said Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg.

Rehnquist was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1971 by President Richard Nixon and was elevated to Chief Justice by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. During his time as head of the court, the Rehnquist Court proved to be the most activist court in U.S. history, striking down more acts of Congress than any other court.

The death of Rehnquist creates an opportunity for President George W. Bush to nominate another conservative jurist to the bench. But the death of the leading activist conservative doesn't give the president much room to move to the right.

With the confirmation hearings for Judge John G. Roberts, Jr. scheduled to begin on Tuesday, the whole situation may get flipped on its head. How will the extremist groups on the right and those groups on the left react? Will the fight intensify? My guess is yes.

UPDATE: Conservative pundit George Will, on ABC News' This Week, declared the Rehnquist Court to be the most activist in American history, striking down 30 acts of Congress. This number has not even been approached by any other court. The panel also noted the most activist decision of the Court's history, Bush v. Gore, which occurred under Rehnquist's watch.


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