Professors Review Supreme Court Term, Rehnquist Legacy
Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist died Sept. 3 and the next day President George Bush announced that John Roberts, nominated to replace retiring Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, was instead nominated for the top job. For a court that had had no faces change for 11 years, things were suddenly happening fast, law professor A.E. Dick Howard observed to open the review of recent Supreme Court decisions that traditionally kicks off the fall semester. Professors Thomas Nachbar, Lillian BeVier and John Harrison, joined by Dean John Jeffries, discussed rulings in selected cases dealing with copyright, federalism, eminent domain and religion in civic contexts. The panel was sponsored by the Student Legal Forum, the American Constitution Society, and the Federalist Society.
Profs. BeVier and Harrison Reflecting on the Rehnquist years, Howard said they will be remembered for the establishment of a conservative bloc on the court that, while not always dominant, was nonetheless a durable shift from the left-leaning view that prevailed on the court when Rehnquist joined it as the rather isolated voice of conservative views. The court also had “an air of self-confidence” under Rehnquist, Howard noted, and was characterized by accepting a reduced docket of cases, typically about 80 per year, than former courts undertook.