Last modified: Tuesday, March 15, 2005
'The Rehnquist Legacy' comes under review
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- He's been called everything from "the Lone Ranger" and "the Invisible Man" to "the most dominant chief justice in American history."
With Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist still absent from the bench because of illness, and with rumors circulating about his health and future on the Supreme Court, a review of his legacy is on the docket this spring.
Leading authorities in constitutional law and criminal procedure, including six former Supreme Court clerks, will assess Rehnquist's place in the history of constitutional law during a conference April 1-2 at the Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington. Three of the presenters scheduled to attend the conference on "The Rehnquist Legacy" are former Rehnquist clerks; another three have clerked for other Supreme Court justices.
Linda Greenhouse, the Supreme Court correspondent for the New York Times and a Pulitzer Prize-winner, is scheduled to deliver the keynote address to the conference on April 1 at 12:15 p.m. EST. All events will be in the law school's Moot Court Room.
The conference is the precursor to a book, The Rehnquist Legacy, which will be published later this year by Cambridge University Press. The book will be the first "legal biography" of a Supreme Court justice, and it will present a collection of 17 original essays by authors who have widely varying opinions on Rehnquist's effectiveness and ideological views. Craig Bradley, the James Louis Calamaras Professor of Law at IU Bloomington and a former Rehnquist clerk, will edit and write the introduction for the book.
Bradley and 15 of the book's contributing authors will gather at the Bloomington conference to discuss those areas of constitutional law in which Rehnquist has had the greatest impact and how the law in those areas has developed during his 33-year Supreme Court tenure, including his 18 years as chief justice. Those areas include the first amendment, criminal procedure, the structure of government and the scope of 14th Amendment rights.
Bradley, who clerked for Rehnquist in the mid-1970s and testified at his confirmation hearing for chief justice, said the conference and subsequent book will be unique in that they are intended to evaluate Rehnquist's own legacy, not the legacy of the Rehnquist court.
"To talk about the Rehnquist court as if it were the same as Rehnquist himself is inaccurate. Much of what the court does is not what Rehnquist would do," Bradley said. "His recent defeats in the areas of affirmative action and gay rights show that Rehnquist's own legacy is very different from the legacy of the court that he nominally leads."
In addition to Bradley, former Rehnquist clerks Richard Garnett, an associate professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, and Joseph L. Hoffmann, the Harry Pratter Professor of Law at IUB, are scheduled to speak at the conference.
The panel of speakers includes former Supreme Court clerks Daniel Farber, the Sho Sato Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley; Geoffrey R. Stone, the Harry Kalven Jr. Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago; and Mark Tushnet, the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown University.
Rehnquist's detractors point out that he has been on the losing side of many Supreme Court decisions on issues such as abortion, affirmative action and gay rights. His supporters argue that he has had a significant impact on constitutional law, particularly in the areas of religious freedom and protecting states' rights. They also cite as a major accomplishment his length of service on the bench -- his is the eighth-longest tenure on the court, and he has led the court longer than all but three chief justices.
"Assessing a justice's legacy is a very complicated thing," Bradley said.
Rehnquist, who turned 80 on Oct. 1, was appointed to the court by President Nixon in 1972 and elevated to chief justice in 1986 by President Reagan. His health has prompted speculation that he will step down when the court's term ends in June and create the first opening on the court in more than a decade.
Rehnquist has been absent from the bench since October, when he disclosed he had thyroid cancer. He has been working mostly from home, where he has read transcripts of arguments and participated in decisions. The court will resume hearing arguments on March 21.
A list of symposium participants and a schedule of presentation topics are available at http://www.law.indiana.edu/front/special/2005_rehnquist/. For more information or for assistance arranging interviews, contact Ryan Piurek, IU Media Relations, at 812-855-5393 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Debbie O'Leary, IU School of Law-Bloomington, at 812-855-2426 or email@example.com.
The IU School of Law-Bloomington is located on the corner of Third Street and Indiana Avenue in Bloomington. For a campus map and parking information for law school events, go to http://www.indiana.edu/~iubmap/mapredirect.pl?select=BL001.