William Rehnquist on Principles & Values

Supreme Court Justice (nominated by Pres. Nixon 1972)


1970s "Lone Ranger" for often being lone dissenter

For many years on the Court, Rehnquist was known as the "Lone Ranger," since in the 1970's he was often the only dissenter against the liberal-minded Warren Court. But slowly, over time, many of Rehnquist's dissents became the law of the land as he shepherded the Court, and the law, back to its foundations. There are a few clearer arcs than the trajectory from Rehnquist's dissents in the 1970's and '80s to the majority opinions of the 1990s and 2000s. Later he had begun to usher in the so-called federalist revolution, which restored some of the historical deference toward the authority of sovereign states.

That transformation--along with the revival of religious liberty and the restoration of balance in criminal justice law--had earned Rehnquist the designation by President Clinton's acting solicitor general Walter Dellinger as "among the three most influential Chief Justices in history."

Source: A Time for Truth, by Ted Cruz, p. 84 , Jun 30, 2015

History of man is inseparable from history of religion

Rehnquist had written a dissent in a 1980 case in which the Court held that displaying the Ten Commandments in a public school is unconstitutional. In that earlier case, he wrote, "The Establishment Clause does not require that the public sector be insulated from all things which may have a religious significance or origin. This court has recognized that 'religion has been closely identified with our history and government,' and that '(t)he history of man is inseparable from the history of religion.'"

Twenty-five years later, Chief Justice Rehnquist's opinion in Van Orden made the same argument, sometimes with the exact same words. This time, however, he was writing for the Court's plurality.

Source: A Time for Truth, by Ted Cruz, p.158 , Jun 30, 2015

Liked to wager one dollar on anything

William Rehnquist was a very competitive man. He wagered on anything--the amount of snowfall that would come to Washington, the outcome of an election. The bet was always the same--$1--and he almost always won.

Once, when he and I were teammates playing croquet, a game he loved and I wasn't good at, he looked at me with a discouraged glance. "Ted, you do know the point of the game is to win, don't you?" My failings on the playing fields notwithstanding, the Chief Justice was a wonderful boss.

Source: A Time for Truth, by Ted Cruz, p. 90 , Jun 30, 2015

OpEd: Court's stability based on dedication to stare decisis

The Court today is a judge's Court, a Court of lawyers. A Court where history, which Henry Ford once dismissed as "bunk," is treated with genuine respect. A Court dedicated to stability, not change, moderation and incrementalism, not liberalism or progressivism. The Rehnquist Court's stability has been especially evident in its dedication to the principle of stare decisis--the doctrine that courts should follow earlier judicial decisions, even if the prior holdings are viewed as wrongly decided. At the same time, it is a Court moved by large, unifying ideas. And a Court that, while remote from the hustle and bustle of American life, remains engaged in virtually all areas of our national life. It is, as Bush v Gore demonstrated, first among equals, the branch of government with the authoritative role in vital issues that deeply affect American life and politics.
Source: First Among Equals, by Kenneth Starr, p. xxviii , Oct 10, 2002

Bush v. Gore: leave recount process to Florida

The Court reversed the Florida Supreme Court decision ordering manual recount of presidential election ballots. A majority agreed that the recount violated the Constitution's equal protection clause, since counting standards varied among counties. The decision effectively ended the presidential election, handing a victory to George W. Bush.
Source: InfoPlease.com on 2000 SCOTUS case Gore v. Bush , Dec 11, 2000

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Other Justices on Principles & Values: William Rehnquist on other issues:
Samuel Alito(since 2006)
Stephen Breyer(since 1994)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg(since 1993)
Elena Kagan(since 2010)
Anthony Kennedy(since 1988)
John Roberts(since 2005)
Sonia Sotomayor(since 2009)
Clarence Thomas(since 1991)

Former Justices:
Merrick Garland(nominated 2016)
Antonin Scalia(1986-2016)
John Paul Stevens(1975-2010)
David Souter(1990-2009)
Sandra Day O'Connor(1981-2006)
William Rehnquist(1975-2005)

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Page last updated: Feb 02, 2020