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Death Of Chief Justice William Rehnquist


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Guest The White House

President George W. Bush makes a statement on the passing of Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist on Sunday September 4, 2005.

 

THE PRESIDENT: Our nation is saddened today by the news that Chief Justice William Rehnquist passed away last night. Laura and I send our respect and deepest sympathy to this good man's children, Jim, Janet, and Nancy. We send our respect to all the members of the Rehnquist family.

 

William H. Rehnquist was born and raised in Wisconsin. He was the grandson of Swedish immigrants. Like so many of his generation, he served in the Army during World War II. He went on to college with the help of the G.I. Bill. He studied law at Stanford University. He graduated first in his class, that included his future colleague, Sandra Day O'Connor. Judge Rehnquist, and his late wife, Nan, raised their family in Phoenix, where he built a career as one of Arizona's leading attorneys. He went on to even greater distinction in pubic service as an assistant U.S. attorney general, associate justice of the Supreme Court, and for the past 19 years, Chief Justice of the United States.

 

He was extremely well respected for his powerful intellect. He was respected for his deep commitment to the rule of law and his profound devotion to duty. He provided superb leadership for the federal court system, improving the delivery of justice for the American people, and earning the admiration of his colleagues throughout the judiciary.

 

Even during a period of illness, Chief Justice Rehnquist stayed on the job to complete the work of his final Supreme Court term. I was honored and I was deeply touched when he came to the Capitol for the swearing-in last January. He was a man of character and dedication. His departure represents a great loss for the Court and for our country.

 

There are now two vacancies on the Supreme Court, and it will serve the best interests of the nation to fill those vacancies promptly. I will choose in a timely manner a highly qualified nominee to succeed Chief Justice Rehnquist. As we look to the future of the Supreme Court, citizens of this nation can also look with pride and appreciation on the career of our late Chief Justice.

 

More than half a century has passed since William H. Rehnquist first came to the Supreme Court as a young law clerk. All of his years William Rehnquist revered the Constitution and laws of the United States. He led the judicial branch of government with tremendous wisdom and skill. He honored America with a lifetime of service, and America will honor his memory.

 

May God bless the Rehnquist family. Thank you all very much.

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Guest United States Courts

Statement of Leonidas Ralph Mecham, Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and Secretary to the Judicial Conference of the United States.

 

I know I speak for the entire federal judicial family in expressing our profound sadness over the loss of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. He demonstrated great courage over the past few months as he battled cancer while also striving to carry out his duties as Chief Justice of the United States.

 

It was my honor and privilege to work closely with the Chief Justice for the past two decades on a variety of matters involving the federal Judiciary. In addition to his Supreme Court duties, Chief Justice Rehnquist led the Judicial Branch and its policy-making body, the Judicial Conference of the United States.

 

When Chief Justice Rehnquist believed his voice would make a difference, he was not hesitant to speak out. In his year-end report, he touched upon several recurring themes.

 

When the federal courts faced fiscal crises, he called upon Congress for adequate funding. He has long advocated improved relations and communications between the legislative and judicial branches, themes that are highly relevant today. He has decried the federalization of state crimes and called for prompt Senate action on judicial nominees – no matter which political party is in the majority.

 

The Chief Justice’s concern for the welfare of the federal judicial system and for those who serve it was well-known. We all appreciate his efforts. His pleas for adequate compensation for judges and his defense of judicial independence have been long-standing and particularly eloquent. I know I can speak for judges throughout the country in saluting Chief Justice Rehnquist for his overall leadership – and in particular – his leadership in these crucial areas.

 

Shortly after taking office, Chief Justice Rehnquist appointed a committee to study the operation of the Judicial Conference and its committees. The changes that were subsequently instituted have dramatically improved the operation of the Conference and opened the door for hundreds of new judges to participate in Conference committee work. Three weeks from now, on September 20, the Chief Justice would have presided over his 38th session of the Judicial Conference.

 

The federal Judiciary will miss his steady hand, principled leadership, impeccable integrity, sense of humor, and more. Our heart-felt sympathy is extended to the family of Chief Justice Rehnquist. There is much of which they should be proud. - Leonidas Ralph Mecham

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Here is a brief bio on William Hubbs Rehnquist Federal Judicial Service to our nation.

 

Supreme Court of the United States

Nominated by Richard M. Nixon on October 22, 1971, to a seat vacated by John Marshall Harlan; Confirmed by the Senate on December 10, 1971, and received commission on December 15, 1971. Service terminated on September 26, 1986, due to appointment to another judicial position.

 

Supreme Court of the United States, Chief Justice

Nominated by Ronald Reagan on June 20, 1986, to a seat vacated by Warren Earl Burger; Confirmed by the Senate on September 17, 1986, and received commission on September 25, 1986.

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Since becoming Chief Justice, Rehnquist has continued to lead the Court's move towards taking a broader view of state powers in the U.S. federal system. 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 commerce clause. Rehnquist has also led the way in establishing more governmental leniency towards state aid for religion, writing for another 5-to-4 majority in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002) approving a school voucher program that aided parochial schools.

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Guest Georgetown Law Student

Just wanted to clarify United States v. Lopez that was decided by the Supreme Court on April 26, 1995

 

Alfonzo Lopez, a 12th grade high school student, carried a concealed weapon into his San Antonio, Texas high school. He was charged under Texas law with firearm possession on school premises. The next day, the state charges were dismissed after federal agents charged Lopez with violating a federal criminal statute, the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. The act forbids "any individual knowingly to possess a firearm at a place that [he] knows...is a school zone." Lopez was found guilty following a bench trial and sentenced to six months' imprisonment and two years' supervised release.

Question Presented

 

Is the 1990 Gun-Free School Zones Act, forbiding individuals from knowingly carrying a gun in a school zone, unconstitutional because it exceeds the power of Congress to legislate under the Commerce Clause?

Conclusion

 

Yes. The possession of a gun in a local school zone is not an economic activity that might, through repetition elsewhere, have a substantial effect on interstate commerce. The law is a criminal statute that has nothing to do with "commerce" or any sort of economic activity.

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Guest Jim Clark

I hope that our nation's decision makers remember how Chief Justice Rehnquist criticized the Senate for stonewalling President Clinton's judicial nominees. We can

honor his memory by giving a straight up and down vote on future Supreme Court nominees.

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We express our sincere condolences to Chief Justice Rehnquist's family and friends," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "Though we disagreed with the chief justice on many issues, he will be remembered for his long service to the court and his profound impact on American constitutional law."

Rehnquist was nominated to the court in 1972 by Richard Nixon and elevated to chief justice in 1986 by Ronald Reagan. As chief justice, he led an activist court that struck down more federal laws than any court since before the New Deal, often on the grounds that Congress had exceeded its powers by enacting comprehensive civil rights legislation.

 

In recent years, however, a majority of the court moved to a more moderate position on this and other issues.

 

"While the current court is undoubtedly more conservative than the court he joined, Rehnquist was ultimately unable to persuade a majority of his colleagues to overrule Roe v. Wade, reject affirmative action, or permit the official government endorsement of religion," said Steven R. Shapiro, the ACLU's National Legal Director.

 

Inevitably, in his long career, there were certain notable exceptions to Rehnquist's conservative record. For example, his decision in Dickerson v. United States (2000) reaffirmed the core holding of Miranda. And, he voted against the Bush administration's claim in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004), that American citizens could be detained indefinitely without charges, trial or access to counsel as part of the war against terrorism.

 

Finally, Chief Justice Rehnquist will forever be remembered for his unique role in presidential history, first in presiding over the Senate impeachment trial of President William J. Clinton, and then in joining a 5-4 majority of the court to end the Florida recount and effectively award the 2000 election to George W. Bush

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