Rehnquist, William

Rehnquist, William

▪ chief justice of United States
born October 1, 1924, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
died September 3, 2005, Arlington, Virginia
 16th chief justice of the United States, appointed to the Supreme Court (Supreme Court of the United States) in 1971 and elevated to chief justice in 1986.

      Rehnquist served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. After the war, he attended Stanford University, where he was awarded bachelor's (1948), master's (1948), and law (1952) degrees, finishing first in his law-school class. He also received a master's degree in political science from Harvard University in 1949. Rehnquist clerked for Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson (Jackson, Robert H(oughwout)) in 1952–53, when the court was hearing cases on the constitutionality of racial segregation (segregation, racial) in public schools. During this period, Rehnquist authored a memorandum for Jackson in which he argued that the doctrine of “separate but equal,” which had been established in Ferguson (Plessy v. Ferguson) (1896), should be upheld. In later years, critics of Rehnquist used this document—along with charges that, as a Republican Party election volunteer in the 1960s, he aggressively attempted to enforce Arizona's literacy-test laws, which effectively denied African Americans and Hispanics the right to vote—in unsuccessful attempts to defeat his nomination to the Supreme Court and his elevation to chief justice. From 1953 to 1969, Rehnquist practiced law in Phoenix, Arizona. In 1969 President Richard M. Nixon (Nixon, Richard M.) appointed him assistant attorney general of the Office of Legal Counsel for the Department of Justice, a post in which he distinguished himself as a staunch advocate of greatly enlarged police powers and as an opponent of civil rights legislation.

      In October 1971 Nixon nominated Rehnquist to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court left by the death of Justice Hugo Black (Black, Hugo). Given his legal and political conservatism, Rehnquist was a logical choice for Nixon, who wished to use the appointment as a way of curtailing the perceived influence of liberal jurisprudence on social policy. After extended and often heated Senate committee hearings, Rehnquist was finally confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 68–26 in December 1971. (In contrast, Nixon's October 1971 appointment of Lewis F. Powell, Jr. (Powell, Lewis F., Jr.), to another court vacancy won near-unanimous confirmation.) Rehnquist took his seat on the court in January 1972.

      Rehnquist's reputation as a justice was based on his encyclopaedic knowledge of constitutional law, his conservative voting record, and his leadership of the court as it moved from generally liberal to mostly conservative. During the 1970s and into the '80s, the vigorous and articulate Rehnquist formed the anchor of the court's conservative minority bloc. His polished legal opinions and consistently conservative stance on almost all legal issues prompted President Ronald Reagan (Reagan, Ronald W.) in June 1986 to nominate him to replace Warren E. Burger (Burger, Warren E.) as chief justice. In much the same way that he appealed to Nixon's desire for a “cleaner and safer” America, Rehnquist suited Reagan's positions on abortion rights and religious liberty, among other issues. An opponent of legalized abortion and an establishment-clause accommodationist (i.e., he favoured extending religion farther into the public sphere), Rehnquist—like other Reagan appointees—shared the president's vision that the court's interpretation of the Constitution and individual laws should be limited to reflect the original intent of the framers and the letter of legislative statutes, respectively. Once again, Rehnquist endured a contentious confirmation hearing, but he was approved by the Senate 65–33.

      As chief justice, Rehnquist dramatically reduced the court's caseload and improved its efficiency. With the support of other Reagan appointees (Sandra Day O'Connor (O'Connor, Sandra Day), Antonin Scalia (Scalia, Antonin), and, later, Anthony Kennedy (Kennedy, Anthony)), the court curbed the ability of Congress to expand federal authority and curtailed affirmative action. Federal laws regulating conduct as disparate as religious expression (under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act), intrastate commerce, and criminal procedure were invalidated in deference to states' rights. In 2003, however, Rehnquist found himself in the minority in cases in which a majority of the court struck down state sodomy laws and upheld affirmative action policies. Although many conservatives had hoped that Rehnquist would lead the court in a reversal of Wade (Roe v. Wade) (1973), the ruling that established the legal right to abortion, the decision of three Republican appointees in Casey (Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey) (1992) permitted greater legal restrictions on abortion but also reaffirmed the right found in Roe v. .

      In The Notion of a Living Constitution (1976), Rehnquist articulated the role of the court in a democratic society, concluding that judicial restraint and deference to lawmaking majorities are essential elements of a responsible judicial system. The liberal concept of a living constitution, he argued, constitutes “an end run around popular government” that is “corrosive of the fundamental values of our democratic society.”

Brian P. Smentkowski

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Rehnquist, William Hubbs — ▪ 2006       American jurist (b. Oct. 1, 1924, Milwaukee, Wis. d. Sept. 3, 2005, Arlington, Va.), served as the chief architect of the U.S. Supreme Court s conservative turn as an associate justice (1971–86) and as chief justice (1986–2005).… …   Universalium

  • Rehnquist, William H(ubbs) — born Oct. 1, 1924, Milwaukee, Wis., U.S. U.S. jurist. He received his law degree from Stanford University and served as clerk to Robert Jackson. He later practiced law in Phoenix, Ariz. (1953–69), where he became active in the conservative wing… …   Universalium

  • Rehnquist, William H(ubbs) — (n. 1 oct. 1924, Milwaukee, Wis., EE.UU.). Jurista estadounidense. Obtuvo su grado académico en derecho de la Universidad de Stanford y trabajó como secretario de Robert Jackson. Más tarde ejerció su profesión en Phoenix, Arizona. (1953–69),… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Rehnquist,William Hubbs — Rehn·quist (rĕnʹkwĭst ), William Hubbs. Born 1924. American jurist who served as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1972 1986) and was appointed chief justice in 1986. * * * …   Universalium

  • William Rehnquist — 16th Chief Justice of the United States In office September 26, 1986 – September 3, 2005 Nominated by …   Wikipedia

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  • William Rehnquist — William Hubbs Rehnquist (né le 1er octobre 1924 à Milwaukee décédé le 3 septembre 2005 à Arlington) est un juriste américain, ancien procureur général, et Chief Justice (Président) de la Cour suprême des États Unis …   Wikipédia en Français

  • William Hubbs Rehnquist — (* 1. Oktober 1924 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; † 3. September 2005 in Arlington, Virginia) war ein US amerikanischer Jurist und Vorsitzender Richter des Supreme Court of the United States (Chief Justice of the United States). Leben …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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