William Hubbs Rehnquist ( ; October 1, 1924 – September 3, 2005) was an American lawyer and jurist who served on the
Supreme Court of the United States The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the Supreme court, highest court in the Federal judiciary of the United States, federal judiciary of the United States of America. It has ultimate (and largely Procedures of the Supreme Court ...

Supreme Court of the United States
for 33 years, as an associate justice from 1972 to 1986 and as Chief Justice from 1986 until his death in 2005. Considered a conservative, Rehnquist favored a conception of federalism that emphasized the Tenth Amendment's reservation of powers to the states. Under this view of federalism, the court, for the first time since the 1930s, struck down an act of Congress as exceeding its power under the Commerce Clause. Rehnquist grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during the final years of
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved World War II by country, the vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great ...
. After the war's end in 1945, he studied
political science Political science is the scientific study of politics. It is a social science dealing with systems of governance and power, and the analysis of politics, political activities, political thoughts, political behavior, and associated constitutions a ...
Stanford University , mottoeng = "The wind of freedom blows" , type = Private university, Private research university , academic_affiliations = Association of American Universities, AAUNational Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, Space-grant , establishe ...
Harvard University Harvard University is a Private university, private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Established in 1636 and named for its first benefactor, clergyman John Harvard (clergyman), John Harvard, Harvard is the Colonial ...
, then graduated from Stanford Law School. He clerked for Associate Justice Robert H. Jackson during the Supreme Court's 1952–53 term, then entered private practice in
Phoenix, Arizona Phoenix ( ; nv, Hoozdo; es, Fénix or ) is the List of capitals in the United States, capital and List of cities and towns in Arizona#List of cities and towns, most populous city in Arizona, with 1,680,992 people (). It is also the List of U ...
. Rehnquist served as a legal adviser for Republican presidential nominee
Barry Goldwater
Barry Goldwater
in the 1964 election, and in 1969 President
Richard Nixon Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913April 22, 1994) was the 37th president of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. A member of the Republican Party, Nixon previously served as the 36th vice president from 1953 to 1961, having ...

Richard Nixon
appointed him Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel. In 1971, Nixon nominated Rehnquist to succeed Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan II, and the United States Senate, U.S. Senate confirmed him that year. Rehnquist quickly established himself as the Burger Court's most conservative member. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan nominated Rehnquist to succeed retiring Chief Justice Warren Burger, and the Senate confirmed him. Rehnquist served as Chief Justice for nearly 19 years, making him the fourth-longest-serving Chief and the List of Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States by time in office, eighth-longest-serving Justice. He became an intellectual and social leader of the Rehnquist Court, earning respect even from the justices who frequently opposed his opinions. Though he remained a member of the conservative wing of the court, Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were often regarded as more conservative. As Chief Justice, Rehnquist presided over the Impeachment of Bill Clinton, impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. Rehnquist wrote the majority opinions in ''United States v. Lopez'' (1995) and ''United States v. Morrison'' (2000), holding in both cases that Congress had exceeded its power under the Commerce Clause. He opposed ''Roe v. Wade'' and continued to argue that ''Roe'' had been incorrectly decided in ''Planned Parenthood v. Casey''. In ''Bush v. Gore'', he voted with the court's majority to end the 2000 United States presidential election recount in Florida, Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election.

Early life

Rehnquist was born on October 1, 1924, and grew up in the Milwaukee suburb of Shorewood, Wisconsin, Shorewood. His father, William Benjamin Rehnquist, was a sales manager at various times for printing equipment, paper, and medical supplies and devices; his mother, Margery Peck Rehnquist—the daughter of a local hardware store owner who also served as an officer and director of a small insurance company—was a local civic activist, as well as translator and homemaker. His paternal grandparents immigrated from Sweden.It means, in direct translation to English: ''reindeer twig''. Rehnquist graduated from Shorewood High School (Wisconsin), Shorewood High School in 1942.Lane, Charles
"Head of the Class: Fresh from service in World War II, William Rehnquist went west unsure of his future. What he found on the Farm changed his life, and the future of the country."
''Stanford Magazine'', July / August 2005. Accessed September 17, 2007. "So, for the brainy kid they had called 'Bugs' back home at suburban Shorewood High School, just outside Milwaukee, weather was a key criterion in selecting a college."
He attended Kenyon College, in Gambier, Ohio, for one quarter in the fall of 1942 before entering the U.S. Army Air Forces. He served from 1943 to 1946, mostly in assignments in the United States. He was put into a pre-meteorology program and assigned to Denison University until February 1944, when the program was shut down. He served three months at Will Rogers Field in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, three months in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and then went to Hondo, Texas, for a few months. He was then chosen for another training program, which began at Chanute Field, Illinois, and ended at Fort Monmouth, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. The program was designed to teach maintenance and repair of weather instruments. In the summer of 1945, Rehnquist went overseas as a weather observer in North Africa. After the war, Rehnquist attended
Stanford University , mottoeng = "The wind of freedom blows" , type = Private university, Private research university , academic_affiliations = Association of American Universities, AAUNational Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, Space-grant , establishe ...
with assistance under the provisions of the G.I. Bill. In 1948, he received Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in
political science Political science is the scientific study of politics. It is a social science dealing with systems of governance and power, and the analysis of politics, political activities, political thoughts, political behavior, and associated constitutions a ...
, as well as an election to Phi Beta Kappa. In 1950, he attended
Harvard University Harvard University is a Private university, private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Established in 1636 and named for its first benefactor, clergyman John Harvard (clergyman), John Harvard, Harvard is the Colonial ...
, where he received another Master of Arts, in government. He later returned to Stanford to attend the Stanford Law School, where he became an editor of the ''Stanford Law Review'' and graduated first in his class in 1952 with a Bachelor of Laws. Rehnquist was in the same class at Stanford Law as Sandra Day O'Connor, with whom he would later serve on the Supreme Court. They briefly dated during law school,Joan Biskupic, Biskupic, Joan. ''Sandra Day O'Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court became its most influential justice''. New York: Harper Collins, 2005 and Rehnquist proposed marriage to her. O'Connor declined as she was by then dating her future husband (this was not publicly known until 2018).

Law clerk at the Supreme Court

Rehnquist went to Washington, D.C., to work as a List of law clerks of the Supreme Court of the United States#Robert H. Jackson, law clerk for Justice Robert H. Jackson of the United States Supreme Court during the court's 1952–53 term.Joan Biskupic, Biskupic, Joan
"Rehnquist left Supreme Court with conservative legacy"
''USA Today''. September 4, 2005.
There, he wrote a memorandum arguing against federal court-ordered school desegregation while the court was considering the landmark case ''Brown v. Board of Education'', which was decided in 1954. Rehnquist's 1952 memo, "A Random Thought on the Segregation Cases", defended the Separate but equal, separate-but-equal doctrine. In the memo, Rehnquist wrote: In both his 1971 Senate confirmation hearing for associate justice and his 1986 hearing for chief justice, Rehnquist testified that the memorandum reflected Jackson's views rather than his own. Rehnquist said, "I believe that the memorandum was prepared by me as a statement of Justice Jackson's tentative views for his own use."1971 confirmation hearings. Jackson's longtime secretary and confidante Elsie Douglas said during Rehnquist's 1986 hearings that his allegation was "a smear of a great man, for whom I served as secretary for many years. Justice Jackson did not ask law clerks to express his views. He expressed his own and they expressed theirs. That is what happened in this instance." But Justices William O. Douglas, Douglas's and Felix Frankfurter, Frankfurter's papers indicate that Jackson voted for ''Brown'' in 1954 only after changing his mind.Justice William O. Douglas wrote: "In the original conference there were only four who voted that segregation in the public schools was unconstitutional. Those four were Black, Burton, Minton, and myself." See Bernard Schwartz,
Decision: How the Supreme Court Decides Cases
', page 96 (Oxford 1996). Likewise, Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote: "I have no doubt that if the segregation cases had reached decision last term, there would have been four dissenters—Vinson, Reed, Jackson, and Clark." Ibid.
At his 1986 hearings for chief justice, Rehnquist tried to further distance himself from the 1952 memo, saying, "The bald statement that Plessy'' was right and should be reaffirmed' was not an accurate reflection of my own views at the time."Adam Liptak
"The Memo That Rehnquist Wrote and Had to Disown"
''NY Times'' (September 11, 2005)
But he acknowledged defending ''Plessy'' in arguments with fellow law clerks."Memos may not hold Roberts's opinions"
''The Boston Globe'', Peter S. Canellos, August 23, 2005 Rehnquist said in 1986 about his conversations with other clerks about ''Plessy'' that he: S. Hrg. 99–1067, Hearings Before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on the Nomination of Justice William Hubbs Rehnquist to be Chief Justice of the United States (July 29, 30, 31, and August 1, 1986).
Several commentators have concluded that the memo reflected Rehnquist's own views, not Jackson's. A biography of Jackson corroborates this, stating that Jackson instructed his clerks to express their views, not his. Further corroboration is found in a 2012 ''Boston College Law Review'' article that analyzes a 1955 letter to Frankfurter that criticized Jackson. In any event, while serving on the Supreme Court, Rehnquist made no effort to reverse or undermine ''Brown'' and often relied on it as precedent. ("Rehnquist ultimately embraced the Warren Court's ''Brown'' decision, and after he joined the Court he made no attempt to dismantle the civil-rights revolution, as political opponents feared he would"). In 1985, he said there was a "perfectly reasonable" argument against ''Brown'' and in favor of ''Plessy'', even though he now saw ''Brown'' as correct. In a memorandum to Jackson about ''Terry v. Adams'',''Terry v. Adams''
345 U.S. 461 (1953)
which involved the right of blacks to vote in an allegedly private Texas election, Rehnquist wrote: In another memorandum to Jackson about the same case, Rehnquist wrote: Nevertheless, Rehnquist recommended to Jackson that the Supreme Court should agree to hear ''Terry''.

Private practice

Rehnquist practiced law privately in
Phoenix, Arizona Phoenix ( ; nv, Hoozdo; es, Fénix or ) is the List of capitals in the United States, capital and List of cities and towns in Arizona#List of cities and towns, most populous city in Arizona, with 1,680,992 people (). It is also the List of U ...
, from 1953 to 1969. He began his legal work in the firm of Denison Kitchel, subsequently serving as the national manager of Barry M. Goldwater's U.S. presidential election, 1964, 1964 presidential campaign. Prominent clients included Jim Hensley, John McCain's future father-in-law. During these years, Rehnquist was active in the Republican Party (United States), Republican Party and served as a legal advisor under Kitchel to Goldwater's campaign. He collaborated with Harry Jaffa on Goldwater's speeches. Many years later, during his 1971 hearing for associate justice and his 1986 hearings for chief justice, several people came forward to complain about Rehnquist's participation in Operation Eagle Eye (United States), Operation Eagle Eye, a Republican attempt to discourage minority voters in Arizona elections, when he served as a Scrutineer, poll watcher in the early 1960s.Roddy, Dennis (December 2, 2000)
"Just Our Bill"
''Pittsburgh Post-Gazette''.
Rehnquist denied the charges, and Vincent Maggiore, then chairman of the Phoenix-area Democratic Party, said he had never heard any negative reports about Rehnquist's Election Day activities. "All of these things", Maggiore said, "would have come through me."Wilentz, Amy (August 11, 1986)


Justice Department

When President of the United States, President
Richard Nixon Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913April 22, 1994) was the 37th president of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. A member of the Republican Party, Nixon previously served as the 36th vice president from 1953 to 1961, having ...

Richard Nixon
was elected in U.S. presidential election, 1968, 1968, Rehnquist returned to work in Washington. He served as Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel from 1969 to 1971. In this role, he served as the chief lawyer to United States Attorney General, Attorney General John N. Mitchell, John Mitchell. Nixon mistakenly called him "Renchburg" in several of the tapes of Oval Office conversations revealed during the Watergate scandal, Watergate investigations. Because he was well-placed in the United States Department of Justice, Justice Department, many suspected Rehnquist could have been the source known as Deep Throat (Watergate), Deep Throat during the Watergate scandal. Once Bob Woodward revealed on May 31, 2005, that W. Mark Felt was Deep Throat (Watergate), Deep Throat, this speculation ended. In fall 1971, Nixon received the resignations of two Supreme Court justices, Hugo Black and John Marshall Harlan II. After compiling an initial list of possible appointees that ran afoul of Warren Burger, Chief Justice Burger and the American Bar Association, Nixon considered Rehnquist for one of the slots. Henry Kissinger discussed the possible pick with presidential advisor H.R. Haldeman and asked, "Rehnquist is pretty far right, isn't he?" Haldeman responded, "Oh, Christ! He's way to the right of Buchanan," referring to then-presidential advisor Patrick Buchanan.

Associate Justice

Nixon nominated Rehnquist to replace John Marshall Harlan II on the Supreme Court upon Harlan's retirement, and after being confirmed by the United States Senate, Senate by a 68–26 vote on December 10, 1971, took his seat as an associate justice on January 7, 1972. There were two vacancies on the court at the time; Nixon nominated Lewis Franklin Powell Jr. to fill the other, left by the retirement of Hugo Black. Black died on September 25, 1971, and Harlan died on December 29 of that year. On the Warren E. Burger, Burger Court, Rehnquist promptly established himself as Nixon's most conservative appointee, taking a narrow view of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Fourteenth Amendment and a broad view of state power. He almost always voted "with the prosecution in criminal cases, with business in antitrust cases, with employers in labor cases, and with the government in speech cases."Bob Woodward & Scott Armstrong, ''The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court''. 1979. Simon and Schuster. Page 221. Although Rehnquist was often a lone dissenter in cases early on, his views later often became the Court's majority view.


For years, Rehnquist was determined to keep cases involving individual rights in state courts away from federal reach.Bob Woodward & Scott Armstrong, ''The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court''. 1979. Simon and Schuster. Page 222. In ''National League of Cities v. Usery'' (1977), his majority opinion invalidated a federal law extending minimum wage and maximum hours provisions to state and local government employees.Friedman, Leon. ''The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions'', Volume V. Chelsea House Publishers. 1978. Page 114. Rehnquist wrote, "this exercise of congressional authority does not comport with the federal system of government embodied in the Constitution." As chief justice, Rehnquist presided over what law professor Erwin Chemerinsky called a "federalist revolution", during which the Court limited federal power in cases such as ''New York v. United States'', ''United States v. Lopez'', ''Printz v. United States'', and ''United States v. Morrison''. Similarly, Cato Institute scholar Roger Pilon has said that "[t]he Rehnquist court has revived the doctrine of federalism . . . only at the edges and in very easy cases."

Equal protection, civil rights, and abortion

Rehnquist rejected a broad view of the Fourteenth Amendment. In 1952, while clerking for Jackson, Rehnquist wrote a memorandum concluding that "''Plessy v. Ferguson'' was right and should be re-affirmed. If the Fourteenth Amendment did not enact Spencer's Social Statics, it just as surely did not enact Myrddahl's American Dilemma" (''An American Dilemma''), by which he meant that the Court should not "read its own sociological views into the Constitution." Rehnquist believed the Fourteenth Amendment was meant only as a solution to the problems of slavery, and was not to be applied to abortion rights or prisoner's rights.Bob Woodward & Scott Armstrong, ''The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court''. 1979. Simon and Schuster. Page 411. He believed the Court "had no business reflecting society's changing and expanding values" and that this was Congress's domain. Rehnquist tried to weave his view of the amendment into his opinion for ''Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer'', but the other justices rejected it. He later extended what he said he saw as the amendment's scope, writing in ''Trimble v. Gordon'', "except in the area of the law in which the Framers obviously meant it to apply—classifications based on race or on national origin".''Trimble v. Gordon''
430 U.S. 762 (1977)
During the Burger Court's deliberations over ''Roe v. Wade'', Rehnquist promoted his view that court's jurisdiction does not apply to abortion.Bob Woodward & Scott Armstrong, ''The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court''. 1979. Simon and Schuster. Page 235. Rehnquist voted against the expansion of school desegregation plans and the establishment of legalized abortions, dissenting in ''Roe v. Wade''. He expressed his views about the Equal Protection Clause in cases like ''Trimble v. Gordon'':

Other issues

Rehnquist consistently defended state-sanctioned school prayer, prayer in public schools. He held a restrictive view of criminals' and prisoners' rights and believed capital punishment to be constitutional.Friedman, Leon. ''The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions'', Volume V. Chelsea House Publishers. 1978. Page 124. He supported the view that the Fourth Amendment permitted a warrantless search incident to a valid arrest.Friedman, Leon. ''The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions'', Volume V. Chelsea House Publishers. 1978. Page 122. In ''Nixon v. Administrator of General Services'' (1977), Rehnquist dissented from a decision upholding the constitutionality of an act that gave a federal agency administrator certain authority over former President Nixon's presidential papers and tape recordings.Friedman, Leon. ''The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions'', Volume V. Chelsea House Publishers. 1978. Page 113. He dissented solely on the ground that the law was "a clear violation of the constitutional principle of separation of powers". During oral argument in ''Duren v. Missouri'' (1978), the court faced a challenge to laws and practices that made jury duty voluntary for women in that state. At the end of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's oral presentation, Rehnquist asked her, "You will not settle for putting Susan B. Anthony on the new dollar, then?" Rehnquist wrote the majority opinion in ''Diamond v. Diehr'', , which began a gradual trend toward overturning the ban on software patents in the United States first established in ''Parker v. Flook'', . In ''Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc.'', pertaining to video cassette recorders such as the Betamax system, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote an opinion providing a broad fair use doctrine while Rehnquist joined the dissent supporting stronger copyrights. In ''Eldred v. Ashcroft'', , Rehnquist was in the majority favoring the copyright holders, with Justices Stevens and Stephen Breyer dissenting in favor of a narrower construction of copyright law.

Rehnquist's view of the rational basis test

David Shapiro, professor of law at
Harvard University Harvard University is a Private university, private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Established in 1636 and named for its first benefactor, clergyman John Harvard (clergyman), John Harvard, Harvard is the Colonial ...
, wrote that while Rehnquist was an associate justice, he disliked even minimal inquiries into legislative objectives except in the areas of race, national origin, and infringement of specific constitutional guarantees.Friedman, Leon. ''The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions'', Volume V. Chelsea House Publishers. 1978. Page 115. For Rehnquist, the Rational basis review, rational basis test was not a standard for weighing the interests of the government against the individual but a label to describe a preordained result. In 1978 Shapiro pointed out that Rehnquist had avoided joining rational basis determinations for years, except in one case, ''Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld''. In ''Trimble v. Gordon'', Rehnquist eschewed the majority's approach to equal protection, writing in dissent in that the state's distinction should be sustained because it was not "mindless and patently irrational". (The court struck down an Illinois law allowing illegitimate children to inherit by intestate succession only from their mothers.) Shapiro wrote that Rehnquist seemed content to find a sufficient relationship between a challenged classification and perceived governmental interests "no matter how tenuous or speculative that relationship might be".Friedman, Leon. ''The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions'', Volume V. Chelsea House Publishers. 1978. Page 116. A practical result of Rehnquist's view of rational basis can be seen in ''Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur'', wherein the Court's majority struck down a school board rule that required every pregnant teacher to take unpaid maternity leave beginning five months before the expected birth of her child. Justice Powell wrote an opinion resting on the ground that the school board rule was too inclusive to survive equal protection analysis. In dissent, Rehnquist attacked Powell's opinion, saying: Shapiro writes that Rehnquist's opinion implied: Rehnquist's dissent in ''United States Department of Agriculture v. Murry'' illuminates his view that a classification should pass muster under the rational basis test so long as that classification is not entirely counterproductive with respect to the purposes of the legislation in which it is contained.Friedman, Leon. ''The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions'', Volume V. Chelsea House Publishers. 1978. Pages 116–117. Shapiro alleges that Rehnquist's stance "makes rational basis a virtual nullity".

Relations on the Court

Rehnquist built warm personal relations with his colleagues, even with ideological opposites. Justice William Brennan Jr. "startled one acquaintance by informing him that 'Bill Rehnquist is my best friend up here.'"David Garrow, "The Rehnquist Reins", ''New York Times'', October 6, 1996. Rehnquist and Justice William O. Douglas bonded over a shared iconoclasm and love of the West.Undated 2003–04 ''Charlie Rose Show'' interview with Rehnquist. ''The Brethren'' claims that the court's "liberals found it hard not to like the good-natured, thoughtful Rehnquist", despite finding his legal philosophy "extreme",Woodward & Armstrong, The Brethren 267 (2005) (1979 ed. at __). and that Justice Potter Stewart, Stewart regarded Rehnquist as "excellent" and "a "team player, a part of the group in the center of the court, even though he usually ended up in the conservative bloc".''The Brethren'', 2005 ed. at 498 (1979 ed. at ___). Since Rehnquist's first years on the Supreme Court, other justices criticized what they saw as his "willingness to cut corners to reach a conservative result", "gloss[ing] over inconsistencies of logic or fact" or distinguishing indistinct cases to reach their destination.''The Bretheren'', 2005 ed. at 268, 499 (1979 ed. at 407–8, __)Leon Friedman, ''The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions'' (1978), page 121. In ''Jefferson v. Hackney'', for example, Douglas and Justice Thurgood Marshall charged that Rehnquist's opinion "misrepresented the legislative history"''The Brethren'', 2005 ed. at 268 (1979 ed. at 222). of a federal welfare program. Rehnquist did not correct what ''The Brethren'' characterizes as an "outright misstatement, ... [and thus] publish[ed] an opinion that twisted the facts". His "misuse" of precedents in another case "shocked" Justice Stevens.''The Brethren'', 2005 ed. at __ (1979 ed. at 222, 408. For his part, Rehnquist was often "contemptuous of Brennan's opinions", seeing them as "bending the facts or law to suit his purposes".''The Brethren'', 2005 ed. at 499. Reluctant to compromise, Rehnquist was the most frequent sole dissenter during the Burger years, garnering the nickname "the Lone Ranger". He usually voted with Burger,''The Brethren'', 2005 ed. at __ (1979 ed. at 269). and—recognizing "the importance of his relationship with Burger"—often went along to get along, joining Burger's majority opinions even when he disagreed with them, and, in important cases, "tr[ying] to straighten him out".

Chief Justice

When Burger retired in 1986, President Ronald Reagan nominated Rehnquist for Chief Justice. Although Rehnquist was to Burger's right,Eisler, Kim Isaac (1993). ''A Justice for All: William J. Brennan, Jr., and the decisions that transformed America''. p. 272. New York: Simon & Schuster. "his colleagues were unanimously pleased and supportive", even his "ideological opposites". The nomination "was met with 'genuine enthusiasm on the part of not only his colleagues on the Court but others who served the Court in a staff capacity and some of the relatively lowly paid individuals at the Court. There was almost a unanimous feeling of joy.'" Justice Thurgood Marshall later called him "a great chief justice". During confirmation hearings, Senator Ted Kennedy, Edward Kennedy challenged Rehnquist on his unwitting ownership of property that had a restrictive covenant against sale to JewsAlan S. Oser
"Unenforceable Covenants are in Many Deeds"
''New York Times'' (August 1, 1986).
Mr. Rehnquist has said he was unaware of discriminatory restrictions on properties he bought in Arizona and Vermont, and officials in those states said today that he had never even been required to sign the deeds that contained the restrictions.... He told the committee he would act quickly to get rid of the covenants. The restriction on the Vermont property prohibits the lease or sale of the property to "members of the Hebrew race" ... The discriminatory language appears on the first page of the single-spaced document in the middle of a long paragraph filled with unrelated language regarding sewers and the construction of a mailbox.
(such covenants were held to be unenforceable under the 1948 Supreme Court case ''Shelley v. Kraemer''). Despite this and other controversies, including concern over his membership in the Alfalfa Club (which at the time did not allow women to join), the United States Senate, Senate confirmed his appointment, 65–33 (49–2 in the Senate Republican Conference, with and Jake Garn abstaining, and 16–31 in the Senate Democratic Caucus), and he took office on September 26. Rehnquist's seat as an associate justice was filled by newly appointed Antonin Scalia. Rehnquist was the first person since Harlan F. Stone to serve as both an associate justice and Chief Justice. Rehnquist had no prior experience as a judge upon his appointment to the Court. His only experience in presiding over a case at the trial level was in 1984, when Judge D. Dortch Warriner invited him to preside over a civil case, ''Julian D. Heislup, Sr. and Linda L. Dixon, Appellees, v. Town of Colonial Beach, Virginia, et al.'' Exercising the authority of a Supreme Court justice to preside over lower court proceedings, he oversaw the jury trial involving allegations that police department employees' civil rights were violated when they testified in a matter involving alleged police brutality against a teenage boy. Rehnquist ruled for the plaintiffs in a number of motions, allowing the case to go to the jury. When the jury found for the plaintiffs and awarded damages, the defendants appealed. The appeal was argued before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on June 4, 1986–16 days before Rehnquist was nominated as Chief Justice. Forty-three days after Rehnquist was sworn in as Chief Justice, the Fourth Circuit reversed the judgment, overruling Rehnquist, and concluding that there was insufficient evidence to have sent the matter to the jury. In 1999, Rehnquist became the second chief justice (after Salmon P. Chase) to preside over a presidential impeachment trial, during the proceedings against President Bill Clinton. In 2000, he wrote a concurring opinion in ''Bush v. Gore'', the case that ended the U.S. presidential election, 2000#Florida election results, presidential election controversy in Florida, agreeing with four other justices that the Equal Protection Clause barred a "standardless" manual recount of the votes as ordered by the Florida Supreme Court. In his capacity as chief justice, Rehnquist administered the Oath of office of the President of the United States, Oath of Office to the following presidents of the United States: * George H. W. Bush in 1989 * Bill Clinton in 1993 and 1997 * George W. Bush in 2001 and 2005

Leadership of the Court

Rehnquist's predecessor as chief justice, Warren Burger, had floundered as a leader, alienating his colleagues with his overbearing manner, his inability to effectively manage the justices' conference sessions, and abuse of his seniority—in particular, his tendency to change his vote on important cases so that he could maintain control over opinion assignments. By contrast, Rehnquist won fellow justices over with his easygoing, humorous, and unpretentious personality. He also tightened up the justices' conferences, keeping justices from going too long or off track and not allowing any justice to speak twice until all had spoken once, and gained a reputation for scrupulous fairness in assigning opinions: Rehnquist assigned no justice (including himself) two opinions before everyone had been assigned one, and made no attempts to interfere with assignments for cases in which he was in the minority. Most significantly, he successfully lobbied Congress in 1988 to give the Court control of its own docket, cutting back on mandatory appeals and certiorari grants in general.Toobin, Jeffrey. ''The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court''. New York: Anchor Books, 2007. Rehnquist added four yellow stripes to the sleeves of his robe in 1995. A lifelong fan of Gilbert and Sullivan operas, he liked the Lord Chancellor's costume in a community theater production of ''Iolanthe'', and thereafter appeared in court with the same striped sleeves. (The Lord Chancellor was traditionally the senior member of the British judiciary.)Barrett, John Q
"A Rehnquist Ode on the Vinson Court"
''The Green Bag (1997), The Green Bag'', Second Series, vol. 11, no. 3, p. 289, Spring 2008.
His successor, Chief Justice John Roberts, chose not to continue the practice.McElroy, Lisa Tucker. ''John G. Roberts, Jr''. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 2007.

Federalism doctrine

Scholars expected Rehnquist to push the Supreme Court in a more conservative direction during his tenure. Many commentators expected to see the federal government's power limited and state governments' power increased. But legal reporter Jan Crawford has said that some of Rehnquist's victories toward the federalist goal of scaling back congressional power over the states had little practical impact.Crawford, Jan. ''Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court''. 2007. Penguin Books. Page 29. Rehnquist voted with the majority in ''City of Boerne v. Flores'' (1997), and referred to that decision as precedent for requiring Congress to defer to the Court when interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment (including the Equal Protection Clause) in a number of cases. ''Boerne'' held that any statute that Congress enacted to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment (including the Equal Protection Clause) had to show "a congruence and proportionality between the injury to be prevented or remedied and the means adopted to that end". The Rehnquist Court's congruence and proportionality theory replaced the "ratchet" theory that had arguably been advanced in ''Katzenbach v. Morgan'' (1966). According to the ratchet theory, Congress could "ratchet up" civil rights beyond what the Court had recognized, but Congress could not "ratchet down" judicially recognized rights. According to the majority opinion of Justice Anthony Kennedy, which Rehnquist joined in ''Boerne'': The Rehnquist Court's congruence and proportionality standard made it easier to revive older precedents preventing Congress from going too far in enforcing equal protection of the laws. One of the Rehnquist Court's major developments involved reinforcing and extending the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which limits the ability of Congress to subject non-consenting states to lawsuits by individual citizens seeking money damages. In both ''Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents'' (2000) and ''Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama v. Garrett'' (2001), the Court held that Congress had exceeded its power to enforce the Equal Protection Clause. In both cases, Rehnquist was in the majority that held discrimination by states based upon age or disability (as opposed to race or gender) need satisfy only rational basis review as opposed to strict scrutiny. Though the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, Eleventh Amendment by its terms applies only to suits against a state by citizens of another state, the Rehnquist Court often extended this principle to suits by citizens against their own states. One such case was ''Alden v. Maine'' (1999), in which the Court held that the authority to subject states to private suits does not follow from any of the express enumerated powers in Article I of the Constitution, and therefore looked to the Necessary and Proper Clause to see whether it authorized Congress to subject the states to lawsuits by the state's own citizens. Rehnquist agreed with Kennedy's statement that such lawsuits were not "necessary and proper": Rehnquist also led the Court toward a more limited view of Congressional power under the Commerce Clause. For example, he wrote for a 5-to-4 majority in ''United States v. Lopez'', , striking down a federal law as exceeding congressional power under the Clause. ''Lopez'' was followed by ''United States v. Morrison'', , in which Rehnquist wrote the Court's opinion striking down the civil damages portion of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 as regulating conduct that has no significant direct effect on interstate commerce. Rehnquist's majority opinion in ''Morrison'' also rejected an Equal Protection Clause, Equal Protection argument on the Act's behalf. All four dissenters disagreed with the Court's interpretation of the Commerce Clause, and two dissenters, Stevens and Breyer, also took issue with the Court's Equal Protection analysis. Justice David Souter asserted that the Court was improperly seeking to convert the judiciary into a "shield against the commerce power". Rehnquist's majority opinion in ''Morrison'' cited precedents limiting the Equal Protection Clause's scope, such as ''United States v. Cruikshank'' (1876), which held that the Fourteenth Amendment applied only to state actions, not private acts of violence. Breyer, joined by Stevens, agreed with the majority that it "is certainly so" that Congress may not "use the Fourteenth Amendment as a source of power to remedy the conduct of private persons", but took issue with another aspect of the ''Morrison'' Court's Equal Protection analysis, arguing that cases that the majority had cited (including ''United States v. Harris'' and the ''Civil Rights Cases'' regarding lynching and segregation respectively) did not consider "this kind of claim" in which state actors "failed to provide adequate (or any) state remedies". In response, the ''Morrison'' majority asserted that the Violence Against Women Act was "directed not at any State or state actor, but at individuals who have committed criminal acts motivated by gender bias". The federalist trend ''Lopez'' and ''Morrison'' set was seemingly halted by ''Gonzales v. Raich'' (2005), in which the court broadly interpreted the Commerce Clause to allow Congress to prohibit the intrastate cultivation of medical cannabis, medicinal cannabis (drug), cannabis. Rehnquist, O'Connor and Justice Clarence Thomas dissented in ''Raich''. Rehnquist authored the majority opinion in ''South Dakota v. Dole'' (1987), upholding Congress's reduction of funds to states not complying with the national 21-year-old drinking age. Rehnquist's broad reading of Congress's spending power was also seen as a major limitation on the Rehnquist Court's push to redistribute power from the federal government to the states.

''Stare decisis''

Some commentators expected the Rehnquist Court to overrule several controversial decisions broadly interpreting the Bill of Rights. But the Rehnquist Court expressly declined to overrule ''Miranda v. Arizona'' in ''Dickerson v. United States''. Rehnquist believed that federal judges should not impose their personal views on the law or stray beyond the framers' intent by reading broad meaning into the Constitution; he saw himself as an "apostle of judicial restraint". Columbia Law School Professor Vincent Blasi said of Rehnquist in 1986 that "[n]obody since the 1930s has been so niggardly in interpreting the Bill of Rights, so blatant in simply ignoring years and years of precedent." In the same article, Rehnquist was quoted as retorting that "such attacks come from liberal academics and that 'on occasion, they write somewhat disingenuously about me'." Rehnquist disagreed with ''Roe v. Wade''. In 1992, ''Roe'' survived by a 5–4 vote in ''Planned Parenthood v. Casey'', which relied heavily on the doctrine of ''stare decisis''. Dissenting in ''Casey'', Rehnquist criticized the Court's "newly minted variation on ''stare decisis''", and asserted "that ''Roe'' was wrongly decided, and that it can and should be overruled consistently with our traditional approach to ''stare decisis'' in constitutional cases". The Court decided another abortion case, this time dealing with partial birth abortion, in ''Stenberg v. Carhart'' (2000). Again, the vote was 5–4, and again Rehnquist dissented, urging that ''stare decisis'' not be the sole consideration: "I did not join the joint opinion in ''Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey'', 505 U. S. 833 (1992), and continue to believe that case is wrongly decided."

LGBT rights

Among the many closely watched decisions during Rehnquist's tenure was ''Romer v. Evans'' (1996). Colorado had adopted an amendment to the state constitution ("Amendment 2") that the Court majority said would have prevented any city, town, or county in the state from taking any legislative, executive, or judicial action to protect citizens from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation. Rehnquist joined Scalia's dissent, which argued that since the Constitution says nothing about this subject, "it is left to be resolved by normal democratic means". The dissent argued as follows (some punctuation omitted): The dissent mentioned the Court's then-existing precedent in ''Bowers v. Hardwick'' (1986), that "the Constitution does not prohibit what virtually all States had done from the founding of the Republic until very recent years—making homosexual conduct a crime." By analogy, the ''Romer'' dissent reasoned that: The dissent listed murder, polygamy, and cruelty to animals as behaviors that the Constitution allows states to be very hostile toward, and stated: "the degree of hostility reflected by Amendment 2 is the smallest conceivable." It added: In ''Lawrence v. Texas'' (2003), the Supreme Court overruled ''Bowers''. Rehnquist again dissented, along with Scalia and Thomas. The Court's result in ''Romer'' had described the struck-down statute as "a status-based enactment divorced from any factual context from which we could discern a relationship to legitimate state interests". The sentiment behind that statute had led the court to evaluate it with a "more searching" form of review. Similarly, in ''Lawrence'', "moral disapproval" was found to be an unconstitutional basis for condemning a group of people. The Court protected homosexual behavior in the name of liberty and autonomy. Rehnquist sometimes reached results favorable to homosexuals, for example voting to allow a gay CIA employee to sue on the basis of constitutional law for improper personnel practices (although barring suit on the basis of administrative law in deference to a claim of national security reasons),''Webster v. Doe'', 486 U.S. 592 (1988). to allow same-sex sexual harassment claims to be adjudicated,''Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc.'', 523 US 75 (1998). and to allow the University of Wisconsin–Madison to require students to pay a mandatory fee that subsidized gay groups along with other student organizations.
Board of Regents v. Southworth
', 529 U.S. 217 (2000).

Civil Rights Act

In ''Alexander v. Sandoval'' (2001), which involved the issue of whether a citizen could sue a state for not providing driver's license exams in languages other than English, Rehnquist voted with the majority in denying a private right to sue for discrimination based on race or national origin involving disparate impact under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. ''Sandoval'' cited ''Cannon v. University of Chicago'' (1979) as precedent. The Court ruled 5–4 that various facts (regarding disparate impact) mentioned in a footnote of ''Cannon'' were not part of the holding of ''Cannon''. The majority also viewed it as significant that §602 of Title VI did not repeat the rights-creating language (race, color, or national origin) in §601.

Religion clauses

In 1992, Rehnquist joined a dissenting opinion in ''Lee v. Weisman'' that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment only forbids government from preferring one particular religion over another. Souter wrote a dissent specifically addressed to Rehnquist on this issue in 1992. Rehnquist also led the way in allowing greater state assistance to religious schools, writing another 5-to-4 majority opinion in ''Zelman v. Simmons-Harris'' that approved a school voucher program that aided church schools along with other private schools. In ''Van Orden v. Perry'' (2005), Rehnquist wrote the plurality opinion upholding the constitutionality of a display of the Ten Commandments at the Texas state capitol in Austin, Texas, Austin. He wrote: This opinion was joined by Scalia, Thomas, Breyer, and Kennedy.

First Amendment

University of Chicago Law School Professor Geoffrey Stone has written that Rehnquist was by an impressive margin the justice least likely to invalidate a law as violating "the freedom of speech, or of the press". Burger was 1.8 times more likely to vote in favor of the First Amendment; Scalia, 1.6 times; Thomas, 1.5 times. Excluding unanimous Court decisions, Rehnquist voted to reject First Amendment claims 92% of the time. In issues involving freedom of the press, he rejected First Amendment claims 100% of the time. Stone wrote: But, as he did in ''Bigelow v. Commonwealth of Virginia'', Rehnquist voted against freedom of advertising if an advertisement involved birth control or abortion.

Fourteenth Amendment

Rehnquist wrote a concurrence agreeing to strike down the male-only admissions policy of the Virginia Military Institute as violating the Equal Protection Clause,''United States v. Virginia''
518 U.S. 515 (1996)
but declined to join the majority opinion's basis for using the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Fourteenth Amendment, writing: This rationale supported facilities separated on the basis of gender: Rehnquist remained skeptical about the Court's Equal Protection Clause jurisprudence; some of his opinions most favorable to equality resulted from statutory rather than constitutional interpretation. For example, in ''Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson'' (1986), Rehnquist established a hostile-environment sexual harassment cause of action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including protection against psychological aspects of harassment in the workplace.


Jeffery Rosen has argued that Rehnquist's "tactical flexibility was more effective than the rigid purity of Scalia and Thomas." Rosen writes: In ''The Partisan: The Life of William Rehnquist'', biographer John A. Jenkins was critical of Rehnquist's history with racial discrimination. He noted that, as a private citizen, Rehnquist had protested ''Brown v. Board of Education'', and as a justice, consistently ruled against racial minorities in affirmative action cases. Only when white males began to make reverse discrimination claims did he become sympathetic to equal protection arguments. Charles Fried has described the Rehnquist Court's "project" as "to reverse not the course of history but the course of constitutional doctrine's abdication to politics". Legal reporter Jan Greenburg has said that conservative critics noted that the Rehnquist court did little to overturn the left's successes in the lower courts, and in some cases actively furthered them.Greenburg, Jan Crawford. ''Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court''. 2007. Penguin Books. p. 29. But in 2005, law professor John Yoo wrote, "It is telling to see how many of Rehnquist's views, considered outside the mainstream at the time by professors and commentators, the court has now adopted."

Personal health

After Rehnquist's death in 2005, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI honored a Freedom of Information Act (United States), Freedom of Information Act request detailing the Bureau's background investigation before Rehnquist's nomination as chief justice. The files reveal that for a period, Rehnquist had been addicted to Placidyl, a drug widely prescribed for insomnia. It was not until he was hospitalized that doctors learned of the extent of his dependency. Dr. Freeman Cary, a U.S. Capitol physician, prescribed Rehnquist Placidyl for insomnia and back pain from 1972 to 1981 in doses exceeding the recommended limits, but the FBI report concluded that Rehnquist was already taking the drug as early as 1970."Rehnquist FBI File Sheds New Light on Drug Dependence, Confirmation Battles"
Tony Mauro. ''Legal Times''. January 4, 2007. Accessed January 4, 2007.
By the time he sought treatment, Rehnquist was taking three times the prescribed dose of the drug nightly.FBI releases Rehnquist drug problem records
''Associated Press''
On December 27, 1981, Rehnquist entered George Washington University Hospital for treatment of back pain and Placidyl dependency. There, he underwent a month-long Drug detoxification, detoxification process. While hospitalized, he had typical Drug withdrawal, withdrawal symptoms, including hallucinations and paranoia. For example, "One doctor said Rehnquist thought he heard voices outside his hospital room plotting against him and had 'bizarre ideas and outrageous thoughts', including imagining 'a CIA plot against him' and seeming to see the design patterns on the hospital curtains change configuration." For several weeks before his hospitalization, Rehnquist had slurred his words, but there were no indications he was otherwise impaired. Law professor Michael C. Dorf, Michael Dorf observed that "none of the Justices, law clerks or others who served with Rehnquist have so much as hinted that his Placidyl addiction affected his work, beyond its impact on his speech."Michael C. Dorf
"The Big News in the Rehnquist FBI File: There Is None"
''Findlaw's Writ'',_January_15,_2007.

Failing health and death

File:Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist (19300992415).jpg, Rehnquist's grave, which is next to his wife, Nan, at Arlington National Cemetery On October 26, 2004, the Supreme Court press office announced that Rehnquist had recently been diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer. In the summer of 2004, Rehnquist traveled to England to teach a constitutional law class at Tulane University Law School's program abroad. After several months out of the public eye, Rehnquist administered the oath of office to President George W. Bush at his Second inauguration of George W. Bush, second inauguration on January 20, 2005, despite doubts over whether his health would permit it. He arrived using a cane, walked very slowly, and left immediately after the oath was administered. Rehnquist missed 44 oral arguments before the Court in late 2004 and early 2005, returning to the bench on March 21, 2005. But during his absence, he remained involved in Court business, participating in many decisions and deliberations. On July 1, 2005, Justice O'Connor announced her impending retirement from the Court, after consulting with Rehnquist and learning that he had no intention to retire. To a reporter who asked whether he would be retiring, Rehnquist replied, "That's for me to know and you to find out." Rehnquist died at his Arlington, Virginia, home on September 3, 2005, four weeks before his 81st birthday. He was the first justice to die in office since Robert H. Jackson in 1954 and the first chief justice to die in office since Fred M. Vinson in 1953. He was also the last serving justice appointed by Nixon. On September 6, 2005, eight of Rehnquist's former law clerks, including Judge John Roberts, his eventual successor, served as pallbearers as his casket was placed on the Lincoln catafalque, same catafalque that bore Abraham Lincoln's casket as he lying in state, lay in state in 1865. Rehnquist's body Lying in state#United States, lay in repose in the Great Hall of the United States Supreme Court Building until his funeral on September 7, a Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran service conducted at the Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. President George W. Bush and Justice O'Connor eulogy, eulogized Rehnquist, as did members of his family. Rehnquist's funeral was the largest gathering of political dignitaries at the cathedral since President John F. Kennedy's funeral in 1963. It was followed by a private burial service, in which he was interred next to his wife, Nan, at Arlington National Cemetery.Arlington National Cemetery – Notable Graves
!-- Official ANC website -->
Christensen, George A., ''Journal of Supreme Court History'' Volume 33 Issue 1, pp. 17–41 (February 19, 2008), ''Here Lies the Supreme Court: Revisited'', University of Alabama.

Replacement as Chief Justice

Rehnquist's death, just over two months after O'Connor announced her impending retirement, left two vacancies for President Bush to fill. On September 5, 2005, Bush withdrew the nomination of Judge John Roberts of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to replace O'Connor as associate justice and instead nominated him to replace Rehnquist as chief justice. Roberts was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and sworn in as the new chief justice on September 29, 2005. He had List of Law Clerks of the Supreme Court of the United States#William Rehnquist 2, clerked for Rehnquist in 1980–81. O'Connor, who had made the effective date of her resignation the confirmation of her successor, continued to serve on the Court until Samuel Alito was confirmed and sworn in in January 2006. Eulogizing Rehnquist in the ''Harvard Law Review'', Roberts wrote that he was "direct, straightforward, utterly without pretense—and a patriot who loved and served his country. He was completely unaffected in manner."

Family life

Rehnquist's paternal grandparents immigrated separately from Sweden in 1880. His grandfather Olof Andersson, who changed his surname from the patronymic Andersson to the family name Rehnquist, was born in the province of Värmland; his grandmother was born Adolfina Ternberg in the Vreta Kloster, Vreta Kloster parish in Östergötland. Rehnquist is one of two chief justices of Swedish people, Swedish descent, the other being Earl Warren, who had Norwegian people, Norwegian and Swedish ancestry. Rehnquist married Natalie "Nan" Cornell on August 29, 1953. The daughter of a San Diego physician, she worked as an analyst on the CIA's Austria desk before their marriage. The couple had three children: James, a lawyer and college basketball star; Janet Rehnquist, Janet, a lawyer; and Nancy, an editor (including of her father's books) and homemaker. Nan Rehnquist died on October 17, 1991, aged 62, of ovarian cancer. Rehnquist was survived by nine grandchildren. Shortly after moving to Washington, D.C., the Rehnquists purchased a home in Greensboro, Vermont, where they spent many vacations.Obermayer, pp. 56–58

Books authored

* * * * *

See also

* Demographics of the Supreme Court of the United States * List of Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States * List of law clerks of the Supreme Court of the United States * List of United States Chief Justices by time in office * List of U.S. Supreme Court Justices by time in office * List of United States Supreme Court cases by the Burger Court, United States Supreme Court cases during the Burger Court * List of United States Supreme Court cases by the Rehnquist Court, United States Supreme Court cases during the Rehnquist Court


Further reading

* * * * * * * * * * * *

External links

* *
Issue positions and quotes
at OnTheIssues * *
''Booknotes'' interview with David Savage on ''Turning Right: The Making of the Rehnquist Supreme Court'', June 28, 1992.
''Booknotes'' interview with Rehnquist on ''Grand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson'', July 5, 1992.

at Answers.com * "In Memoriam: William H. Rehnquist"
119 Harvard Law Review 2005
(tributes to Rehnquist)
Original source William Rehnquist FBI file

* William Rehnquist's FBI files, hosted at the Internet Archive: *
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Supreme Court Associate Justice Nomination Hearings on William Hubbs Rehnquist in November 1971
United States Government Publishing Office
Supreme Court Chief Justice Nomination Hearings on William Hubbs Rehnquist in July 1986
United States Government Publishing Office


– ''The Washington Post''

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