54 RI Bar J., No. 3, Pg. 13 (Nov/Dec 2005). Remembering William H. Rehnquist; October 1, 1924 - September 3, 2005.

AuthorHon. Bruce M. Selya

Rhode Island Bar Journal

Volume 54.

54 RI Bar J., No. 3, Pg. 13 (Nov/Dec 2005).

Remembering William H. Rehnquist; October 1, 1924 - September 3, 2005

Rhode Island Bar Journal November/December 2005 pg. 13Remembering William H. Rehnquist; October 1, 1924 - September 3, 2005Hon. Bruce M. SelyaBruce M. Selya is a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and a member of the Rhode Island Bar.

In his distinguished thirty-three year tenure on the United States Supreme Court, Chief Justice William Hubbs Rehnquist displayed a finely calibrated constitutional compass. He used his perch atop the nation's judicial system to interject many of his sincerely held views into the warp and woof of binding precedent. In large measure, we owe the new federalism - a doctrine that has empowered the states, diminished the role of the central government, and set new limits on federal authority - to his sense of constitutional direction.

The results have been profound. The Constitution no longer is in danger, in Rehnquist's phrase, of becoming "a font of tort law"; the federal courts no longer routinely run prisons and other institutions; government no longer is prevented from engaging in the indirect funding of religious schools; and those convicted of capital crimes no longer can count on the luxury of a near-endless series of appeals.

That is the jurisprudential legacy of William Rehnquist - and it is both a proud and a controversial one. But even those who resist Rehnquist's vision of the law agree that he was a formidable leader: a man of keen intellect, who cherished the Court as an institution and zealously guarded its reputation; a man of unquestioned integrity and the utmost decency; a man who enjoyed extraordinary success in promoting collegiality among the Justices; and a man of limitless courage, whose bravery in continuing to work during the throes of a debilitating illness exemplifies the federal judiciary at its best.

The Chief - the way I always will think of him - was much more than a magnificent judge. The Chief Justice of the United States is also the administrative head of the entire federal court system. I was privileged to work closely with him over the years in the discharge of his administrative duties. He had a remarkable facility for that type of endeavor.

Much of his administrative genius can be...

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