Sunday, September 04, 2005

Chief Justice Rehnquist Dies

This morning, I learned that Chief Justice Rehnquist passed away last night from cancer that he had battled for almost a year.

Chief Justice Rehnquist served on the court since 1972 and was appointed Chief Justice by Reagan in 1986. Rehnquist was known for his advocacy of state's rights, support of religious displays in public settings and his dissent in Roe v. Wade. He sided with the minority in upholding the mandatory death penalty for 1st degree murder in North Carolina as Consitutional in Woodson v. North Carolina (July 2, 1976). In May of the same year, Rehnquist again sided with the minority in Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Consumer Council, where he held that a ban on advertising prices for prescription drugs was not a violation of the first amendment. However, Rehnquist did not always uphold state's rights. In 1987, he sided with the majority and against state's rights in South Dakota v. Dole, in which he claimed that it was Constitutional for Congress to deny federal highway funding for states that did not adopt a uniform drinking age of 21 as a means of encouraging states to adopt a higher minimum drinking age. In 1989, he was in the minority (5-4), in Allegheny v. ACLU. The ACLU alleged that the two displays, one of a nativity scene and the other a menorah, violated the first amendment. Rehnquist disagreed with the court's decision that Allegheny had violated the first amendment because the nativity scene endorsed Christianity, but the display of the menorah was Constitutional.

In 2000, Rehnquist delivered an opinion in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale where a scoutmaster's membership was revoked after the organization learned that he was homosexual. Rehnquist upheld the Boy Scouts' decision as acting within the law, stating that requiring them to retain Dale as a scoutmaster would violate their right to expressive association under the first amendment, and would "force the organization to send a message, both to the young members and the world, that the Boy Scouts accepts homosexual conduct as a legitimate form of behavior." In another controversial case this year, Chief Rehnquist sided with Justices O'Connor, Scalia and Thomas, the minority in Kelo v. New London, advocating a strict definition of "public use" in application of eminent domain.

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