In Dicta

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Chief Justice Rehnquist retiring tomorrow?

Robert Novak today writes:

“Adding to the tension is word from court sources that ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist also will announce his retirement before the week is over. That would enable Bush to play this game: Name one justice no less conservative than Rehnquist, and name Gonzales, whose past record suggests he would replicate retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on abortion and possibly other social issues. Thus, the present ideological orientation of the court would be unchanged, which would suit the left just fine.

Kennedy and his allies were taken by surprise last Friday when O'Connor declared she was leaving. Democrats had expected Rehnquist to go first. Since Rehnquist's replacement by a conservative would not change the court's balance, Kennedy could keep his filibuster gun in the closet for now. O'Connor's bombshell raised the possibility of a conservative switch on the court, and Kennedy reacted to the new climate quickly.”

Confessions of a Political Junkie adds:

“I just got off a conference call with some insiders in Washington. The buzz up there is not just on the bombings, but also on William Rehnquist. A Supreme Court source says the “writing is on the wall” that the Chief Justice could resign at any time. A White House source and a Senate source concur.

The speculation is that Rehquist is a team player, but he is also the Chief Justice of the United States and head of the third branch of government — he’s not fully prone to waiting for the timing of another branch of government. At the same time, the thinking goes that if the Chief goes now, it throws more confusion into the process and might actually make things a bit easier for the White House, which is something the Chief might be interested in helping facilitate.”

Of course, this is all speculation. However, might today’s horrible terrorist attacks postpone any Rehnquist announcement for another week? Or the fact that Bush is at the G8 meeting in Scotland (although Rehnquist certainly knew this)? It would certainly be an interesting summer if we had two nomination battles going on (or 3 if the President chose to elevate a sitting Justice to be Chief Justice).