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Chief Justice Rehnquist Dies at 80 730

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the breaking-news-that-isn't-tech-related dept.
After 33 years at the bench, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist has passed away at the age of 80 due to thyroid cancer. This comes after the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor from the court over the summer. Rehnquist's passing gives President Bush the opportunity to replace the second justice of his term, this time perhaps to assume the highest role in the judicial system.
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Chief Justice Rehnquist Dies at 80

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 04, 2005 @12:35AM (#13474377)
    fuck all the politics , lets remember the man..
    • Agreed. Be thee liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between, this justice performed his duties to the best of his ability, to the very, very end. That shows a certain passion, a certain true belief in what you're doing.

      Regards,

      John

      • by geoswan (316494) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @03:41AM (#13475216) Journal
        "To the best of his ability?"

        Sincerity is a highly over-rated virtue. If he did a lousy job it doesn't matter very much if he was sincere in how he tried to carry out his duties.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 04, 2005 @05:25AM (#13475527)
        Hear hear.

        Though like many Slashdotters I am a left-winger, I really appreciate how so many of our compatriots not only vote but also so clearly care about values and ethics. Renquist was one of America's great justices.

        Slashdot Politics could be a powerful force if properly directed!

        Keep up the great work,
        -joshua
    • by rolfwind (528248) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @02:29AM (#13474903)
      fuck all the politics , lets remember the man..

      Agreed and Disagreed.

      Agreed with anything relating to Renquist.

      Disagreed when it comes time to replace him.

      Because the Supreme Court is more important than the President and Congress. It's pathetic and sad, but true, they are the last line of defense between the government and the Constitution.

      Especially in recent times as the executive and legislative branches grab more and more money and power for themselves in the guise of representing the people - the Supreme Court seems to be the one branch actually interested in what the Constitution says other than figuring ways around it (even though I think that's going down the drain slowly too with that last property & profit decision in June).

      It's harder to buy a judge - they don't need reelecting. There's only nine of them (easier to monitor them unlike Congress) and they don't try to do as much in secrecy as say, the White House.

      Plus, except for death and voluntary retirement, most Supreme Judge's terms extend right past the president that nominates them. the congress that confirms them into infinity.

      Their biases alone will not only determine crap like abortion, but whether highstake legisition like DMCA is constitutional. Multiply that by all the technologicial issues (stem cell, cloning, etcetera) and you can easily see the Supreme Court as the trump card of any movement - be it conservative, liberal, free software, open software, etcetera.

      It comes down to them.

      I would dare say in the longterm, the two upcoming new Justices (whoever they may be) will impact us more than any elected politician short of President ever will.
    • by jd (1658) <.imipak. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @03:39AM (#13475207) Homepage Journal
      ...the fact is, he was a person who did his utmost to live by his beliefs and to stand by what he considered important and of value.


      It is also worth considering that it takes a kind of courage that few on this planet possess to stay working when (quite probably) in terrible agony and (certainly) in full knowledge that his days were numbered.


      I see little honor in the living dying for one's country. I see considerable honor in the dying living for theirs. The difference is important. The former is a waste, the latter is devotion.


      While I have a hard time telling him to rest in peace, I do at least wish him no ill and pray that whatever lies beyond this life has mercy upon him and remember him not for his faults - we all have those - but for what good he brought into the world.

      • by Patik (584959) <cpatik@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @12:12PM (#13477342) Homepage Journal
        ...the fact is, he was a person who did his utmost to live by his beliefs and to stand by what he considered important and of value.
        I think statements like this are BS. Just because he stood by his principles doesn't mean he was a good man. What if his principles were radical and against the general will of the people? What if the guy grossly misinterpretted the Constitution, according to 90% of Americans?

        I'm not saying Rehnquist did this, but it's not good to blindly praise someone who stood by their principles when their principles were bad.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 04, 2005 @12:35AM (#13474383)
    She will kick ass.
  • by NtroP (649992) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @12:36AM (#13474391)
    I hear cries of woe and lamentations from the liberals all over the world tonight!
  • ... after the next Supreme Court Chief Justice dies, make way for Bart Simpson.
  • by xactuary (746078) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @12:39AM (#13474409)
    I, for one, welcome our new Chief Justice Ballmer to lead us!

  • Oh yeah! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mcgroarty (633843) <brian,mcgroarty&gmail,com> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @12:41AM (#13474418) Homepage
    It's time for Chief Justice Pat Robertson!

    Seriously though. When can we get someone who wasn't in line to buy grandkids Pong when it first came out? I'm not concerned about the political leanings so much as I am about getting someone who doesn't think "The Internet" is a feature of premium adult diapers.

    • Re:Oh yeah! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cyberfunk2 (656339)
      I'm not sure you give our judicial enough credit...

      I think as part of their duty to be informed on the issues that these people know what the internet is. Hell, they probably even use E-MAIL.

      Not all old people are intrinsically tech-unsavvy. In particular, I dont think that SC justices can afford to be unsavvy; Their posistion is so important that it demands savvy as part of the job. And I DO think these people take their job seriously.
    • Re:Oh yeah! (Score:3, Insightful)

      I'm not concerned about the political leanings so much as I am about getting someone who doesn't think "The Internet" is a feature of premium adult diapers.

      Even if the next guy were 25, you'd still have a 1-in-50 chance of getting someone that has a clue how to run Windows Update, and then you'd be stuck with him for 60 years.

      I'd rather have someone who knew the ins and outs of what huge corporations are allowed to do than someone who knows FORTRAN, and that kind of stuff usually takes a few decades to lear
    • Re:Oh yeah! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by toddbu (748790)
      When can we get someone who wasn't in line to buy grandkids Pong when it first came out?

      I was just having a conversation with a friend about technology when this news came out. I was asking him whether technology was really making our lives better, or whether it was making them different. While I'd like to have someone on the court who understands how to boot a machine (or better yet, what mkinitrd does), in some ways I wonder whether that would really be better. After all, we owe our whole existence a

      • Whether you agreed with his decisions or not, he was a man who was dedicated to his work.
        What I liked most was that he was a true federalist. Even if I didn't always like his decisions, he understood that the US government is a limited government. Many things simply don't belong any higher than the state courts, but many justices never saw a single case they didn't want their hands in.
    • Re:Oh yeah! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kjella (173770)
      Seriously though. When can we get someone who wasn't in line to buy grandkids Pong when it first came out?

      When you have someone with the relevant years of legal experience. There's no second-guessing these appointments, once made they are made. The only real way to verify their qualifications is to review their cases. Obviously you need first a law degree (long education), then you will usually be doing menial jobs for a while before you even begin to gather cases worth reviewing. With one exception in the
  • by SynapseLapse (644398) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @12:42AM (#13474428)
    But wasn't Televangelist Pat Robertson praying for the death of a supreme court judge? If so.... @_@
  • Obvious issues... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RyanFenton (230700) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @12:42AM (#13474431)
    Clinton got his two nominees, looks like Bush will get his two also.

    Just hope this won't immediatly swing the issues of legal abortion and religious coersion too far to the right when all is said and done. Right wing judges aren't insane, but they are at least as activist on their core issues.

    Ryan Fenton
    • Pardon me, but how is it activist to actually discuss the law in terms that the founding fathers intended? I'm not a Christian, never have been, but it's part and parcel of the Declaration of Independence (Creator anyone?) and the Constitution (God anyone?). As for abortion, although it existed as did drug abuse in the eighteenth century, neither was addressed as they shouldn't be addressed except in terms of the 10th Amendment which was put in the Bill of Rights for exactly that reason. These are state
      • Re:Obvious issues... (Score:5, Informative)

        by bl968 (190792) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @01:14AM (#13474593) Journal
        Here's a nice article [thenation.com] with lots of facts for you to ignore on our godless consitution. It wasn't accidental it was intentional.

        "In 1797 our government concluded a "Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, or Barbary," now known simply as the Treaty of Tripoli. Article 11 of the treaty contains these words:

        As the Government of the United States...is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion--as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity of Musselmen--and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

        This document was endorsed by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and President John Adams. It was then sent to the Senate for ratification; the vote was unanimous. It is worth pointing out that although this was the 339th time a recorded vote had been required by the Senate, it was only the third unanimous vote in the Senate's history"
      • look closer (Score:3, Insightful)

        by YesIAmAScript (886271)
        Bush and DeLay rail against "activist judges" when judges threaten to bring down DeLay for breaking the law.

        But when they want Terri Schaivo kept alive, they lament that the judges can't find a way to do it. They even pass specific laws to have judges look again, even after the judges (who do know their jobs) say there is nothing they can do.

        This whole thing is a canard so the Repubs can undermine judges in preparating for the time when all these illegal deeds (locking people up without trial, DeLay's myria
      • Dear Ghod, no.... (Score:5, Informative)

        by abb3w (696381) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @02:03AM (#13474809) Journal
        I'm not a Christian, never have been, but it's part and parcel of the Declaration of Independence (Creator anyone?) and the Constitution (God anyone?)

        Here we go again with this old debate....

        Yes, the founders of the United States believed in God -- but this makes them Deists, not necessarily Christians. The Declaration of Independence [archives.gov] does indeed speak of "Nature's God", and refer to mankind being "endowed by their Creator" -- but makes no mention of Christianity.

        Furthermore, NOWHERE in the Constitution [archives.gov] do the words "God" or "Christ" appear — a point oft considered conspicuous by omission in favor of "We The People". Rather, specific references are made to separate church and state, requiring within the constituion proper "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States", and in the Bill of Rights [archives.gov] opening with "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion".

        Add in the evidence of the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli as ratified by Congress and as published with little stir in the Press (albeit not as drafted at the treaty table!) which declared "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..." , leads one to believe the Founders were doing their utmost to drag the United States away from the sectarian bloodshed that had divided Europe -- and particularly England -- for centuries.

        Jefferson is the source of the phrase "wall of separation between church and state" that the religious right so detest; a man who removed all references to the miracles from his personal transcription of the Gospels; and who felt that his authorship of the Stature of Virginia for Religious Freedom [worldpolicy.org] one of the accomplishments most worthy for noting in his epitaph. Living in Charlottesville and having recently visited Monticello, I feel obliged to assure you that the persistent ground vibrations you can feel standing in front of his tombstone is not the rumble of a passing truck, but Mister Jefferson spinning in his grave from Bush's Presidency. =)

        As for your assertion on abortion, while your position is better founded, I suggest you read the actual Roe v. Wade ruling all the way through; your assertion about the rights of the states in the 10th Amendment falls aside explicitly to the later "Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment"... although the court might reasonably revisit such a question, given the strained reasoning used. This makes the abortion war yet another twisted legacy of the debate over our former "peculiar institution."

        As to your prime assertion on the legal import of the intent of the founding fathers, I suggest you read Lessig's "Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace"... plus a good more of the biographies of those colorful, contestous, and amazingly human founders of ours. Leaving aside Lessig's points on unaddressed assumptions, suggesting they ever had a single unified intent is a slander to their memories and to what they achieved in their struggle to unify in common cause.

      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @03:23AM (#13475145)
        I'm not a Christian, never have been, but it's part and parcel of the Declaration of Independence (Creator anyone?) and the Constitution (God anyone?).

        What are you talking about? Neither of the words "god" or "creator" occur even once in the US Constitution. [house.gov] Meanwhile, in the Declaration of Independence [indiana.edu] the actual terms that occur are "Nature's God" and "Creator" - neither of which says a ringy-ding-ding about a Christian God. Certainly there is NO mention of Christ, Messiah, Yahweh, Prophet, Bodhisattva, Kalima, or any other specific diety or divine office.

        Furthermore, there is no indication whatsoever, and plenty of indication to the contrary, in those documents that religion - any religion - should even be acknowledged by the state.

        This is where Scalia and his claims of being a "strict constructionist" fall apart. For the most part his words and deeds match, but once religion comes into the picture he's just waving his hands and hoping nobody examines his justifications too closely, because when you do, you see just how far he has to reach to bring his god into the arena.
    • Re:Obvious issues... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by thoolie (442789) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @01:03AM (#13474545) Homepage
      The difference is when Clinton got his 2, the senate was run by republicans. Now, both houses and the executive branch are run by the same (centerally controlled) party. Once the USSC is weighted towards the same party with Roberts and the replacement for Reinquist, we will see the US with all three branches of government ran by the same party (the same small group of people, if you will). I can remember only two ofther nation as large as ours that were run by a single, centerally controlled party (yes, the RNC is centerally controlled). I think most of you can too. It is scary to think that, if the next elections continue the trend of the last 4 (including midterms)that so few people will have so much control.

      I really do fear for our rights, as we have seen in the past, that when this much control is given to so few, that the rights of the many are quick to be called into question.

      I pray that we will once again see a balance of power within our governemtn, for without that balance, there ARE NO checks and balances.

      It was once said (and maybe you people can help me out) that once the government stops fighting with itself, it turns it's rath on the people.
      • Re:Obvious issues... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by AaronW (33736) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @03:30AM (#13475171) Homepage
        One other thing to remember is that Clinton ran his choices before the republicans before he nominated them before the republicans came to power in the 1994 election. That's why in 1993 the judiciary committee voted unanimously to accept Ruth Bader Ginsburg and unanimously voted for Stephen Breyer in 1994 when democrats were still in charge. He made a real effort to work with them. For Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the senate voted 96 to 3 in favor. For Stephen Breyer was confirmed 89 to 9. Bush, on the other hand, has done everything within his power to totally ignore the democrats or even antagonize them. See http://hnn.us/articles/13357.html [hnn.us] for a history of Clinton's appointees.
    • by lheal (86013)

      Just hope this won't immediatly swing the issues of legal abortion and religious coersion too far to the right when all is said and done. Right wing judges aren't insane, but they are at least as activist on their core issues.

      Sigh. Since Rehnquist was a conservative, replacing him with another conservative won't change the balance of the Court.

      "Activist" judges create law by their decisions. OTOH, most judges want to try the case in front of them, or even better, to have the parties settle. That i

  • by timeOday (582209) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @12:43AM (#13474436)
    Here he was just a few weeks ago calling down "additional vacancies occur within the Supreme Court," and Shazzam!
  • With 2 justices appointed by him, GWB's impact on American politics is sure to last way beyond his 2 terms.

    And I somehow doubt he will appoint a moderate this time.
  • Well fuck. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @12:43AM (#13474439) Homepage
    Bush gets two appointments now? How screwed are we.

    Though I was not a big fan of Rhenquist -- many of his positions on the Court, his work in the Nixon administration, his fashion sense -- he surely will be better than whoever we get next.
    • Re:Well fuck. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Martin Blank (154261) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @01:05AM (#13474551) Journal
      It's a pretty common number. Clinton got two, the elder Bush got two, Reagan got two. Even Ford got one. Nixon got three, and Johnson and Kennedy each got two. Ike got four.

      Carter seems to have been the only president in the last century that hasn't appointed anyone to the Supreme Court.
  • by thoolie (442789) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @12:47AM (#13474455) Homepage
    It is my humble belief that the USSC was our last sane branch of government. Call Reinquist what you will, but he was an honest man of a different generation. I truely believe that with his loss, we will be forced to face a USSC with another younger and less principled justice. I really feel that we are going from a court dedicated to interpitation of the constitution to one that just may be another political tool to enforce a given ideology.

    This is a scary time in the US. We have never had ALL of our branches of government run by a political party with control centered in the hands of so very few. Truly a scary time.
  • by Deacon_Yermouf (900678) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @12:48AM (#13474460)
    ... that this sesssion of Congress will be filled with love, cooperation, friendship, and togetherness.
  • Possibly More then 2 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thebdj (768618) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @12:52AM (#13474481) Journal
    This is truly a sad day. It should be noted that anyone picked to replace Rehnquist though probably won't be too ideologically different. Check his history and you'll see a man who supported VERY CONSERVATIVE views. If GWB is smart, he cut a deal with the senate to appoint a more "moderate" individual in exchange for no fighting on the nominations, not likely but possible.
    It should be noted that it is possible he will get more then just the two nominations. John Paul Stevens is 85, and could possibly retire or die before the end of GWB's term. The youngest justice at present is Clarence Thomas at 57. So anything can happen in two years.
  • A scary thought (Score:3, Informative)

    by daspriest (904701) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @01:01AM (#13474534)
    From TFA:
    Possible replacements include Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales

    Based on his past memos, that would be one of the scariest things for human rights as a whole.

  • A Rehnquist Story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fm6 (162816) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @01:02AM (#13474535) Homepage Journal
    Way back in 1972, when he was first appointed to the court, Rehnquist was one of its most conservative Justices. He quickly became close friends with William O. Douglas [wikipedia.org], who was far and away the most liberal Justice. The friendship was obviously motivated in part by a mutual need to bridge their ideological gap so they could work together to make law that people on both sides could live with.

    Nowadays, Washington is dominated by a self-righteous Us-And-Them mentality that makes such friendships impossible. The Supreme Court is sort of resistant to this, but is still pretty bad. And we're all suffering for it.

  • A shame. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Devil (16134) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @01:18AM (#13474616) Homepage
    Oh, well; I wasn't really using the Fourth Amendment, anyway.
    • Re:A shame. (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Funny that you mention that, there was actually a copy in your upper left desk drawer yesterday evening. We thought it was a little ironic, considering the situation.

      -- The Police
  • RIP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nich0las (912051) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @01:24AM (#13474643)
    I was questioning why he stayed in office when everyone was expecting him to retire. I first thought it was just to spite Bush and not give him a chance to seat someone. I think now in hind sight that was wrong. The appoinment of the Supreme court justice is a position that will(can) be held for life. I think Rehnquist is the embodiment of what true commitment is. I don't know the facts, but how many of the previous justices have died while still being seated? Rehnquist is a man, who's life story will be known by many. RIP
    • Re:RIP (Score:3, Informative)

      by deblau (68023)
      I don't know the facts, but how many of the previous justices have died while still being seated?

      Of the 108 Supreme Court Justices, 48 died in office, of whom eight were Chief Justice. Source: Oyez.org [oyez.org].

      1. William H. Rehnquist (CJ)
      2. Fred M. Vinson
      3. Wiley B. Rutledge
      4. Robert H. Jackson
      5. Harlan Fiske Stone (CJ)
      6. Frank Murphy
      7. Benjamin N. Cardozo
      8. Edward T. Sanford
      9. Pierce Butler
      10. Joseph R. Lamar
      11. Edward D. White (CJ)
      12. Horace H. Lurton
      13. Rufus Peckham
      14. Howell E. Jackson
      15. David J. Brewer
      16. Melville W. Fuller (CJ)
      17. Lucius Q.C. La
  • NY Times Obituary (Score:3, Informative)

    by kevinatilusa (620125) <kcostell.gmail@com> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @01:27AM (#13474652)
    The New York Times has their obituary up for him at http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/04/politics/04REHNQ UIST.OBIT.WEB.html?pagewanted=all [nytimes.com].

    Registration required as usual, but this seems of high enough quality to make it worthwhile.
  • Farewell good sir. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Kano (13027) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @03:05AM (#13475064) Homepage Journal
    I know that the politicking about his replacement has already started.

    Before anyone gets too carried away about abortion litmus tests, remember this.

    US Constitution Article VI

    • Clause 3: The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

      LK

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