June 14, 2006

"It was Nan Rehnquist's death, then, that in effect changed Supreme Court -- and American -- history."

Writes Noel Augustyn, who was Rehnquist's administrative assistant in the late 1980s. The quote appears at the end of an article by Tony Mauro that surveys various recent writings assessing the work of the late Chief Justice.


Goesh said...

Hail to the Old CJ! It makes sense to me, the partner and mate for so many years suddenly is gone, along with the plans for travel and leisure, so he kept on working instead. Many men seem uncomfortable in retirement, restless. It was a good excuse to stay on the job.

Simon said...

I eagerly await the inevitable publication of a Rehnquist biography titled "The Chief", and hope for a respectfull and decent survey of his jurisprudence, a la the recent Rossum book on Justice Scalia.

Simon said...

Re the article, I think Doug Kmiec has it about right. It is pointless to carp about what Rehnquist could have or should have done; he did the best that could be done with the Court that he had. It is like complaining that Scalia has not done more to stop the use of legislative history - at a certain point, the powers of pursuasion run out, and it becomes a question of the brute-force of new appointments. We didn't send Scalia and Rehnquist reinforcements; ergo, there was only so much they can do.

If "conservatives [feel] he did not travel far enough on the right one, allowing major doctrinal shifts on federalism, property rights, and other areas to fizzle or fade," perhaps they should take a good, long look in the mirror, and ask themselves if they did everything they could do to stop Perot in 1992, and thus, to prevent the nomination of two justices by Clinton, one of whom epitomizes "split the difference" jurisprudence. Rehnquist did not have a court full of Scalias, a court full of Rehnquists; he did not even have a court full of Kennedys. You need five votes to accomplish anything; Rehnquist's detractors seem to be suffering from a temporary failure to remember the very practical limitation of depending on O'Connor and Kennedy to get more-or-less anything done. I thus concur with Earl Maltz: "Rehnquist didn't get everything he wanted, but he did not have the votes." The defeat of Bob Bork, and the failure to re-elect George H.W. Bush are what went wrong, and neither of these things were within Rehnquist's power to change.

I am apparently quite a softie. I think the story about wanting to reture and then the death of his wife just when that became possible is heartbreaking. I'm glad he stayed on, but I think the reason he did is very sad.

OhioAnne said...

Don't mean to go off topic but you should take a look at the sidebar in that link. Lanny Davis discusses Enron and crisis management and what could have been differently.

It was so interesting, I never made it to the original link.