[Mb-civic] Conservative 'Lone Ranger' became court's mainstream
voice - Boston Globe
swiggard at comcast.net
Sun Sep 4 04:48:15 PDT 2005
Conservative 'Lone Ranger' became court's mainstream voice
By Charlie Savage, Globe Staff | September 4, 2005
WASHINGTON -- In his first years as a Supreme Court justice three
decades ago, William Rehnquist earned a reputation as the conservative
''Lone Ranger" because he so frequently dissented from the liberal
But by the time of his death yesterday, Rehnquist's once-outlying ideas
had become the mainstream view of the highest court on many key issues.
Rehnquist, who served the second-longest tenure as chief justice in US
history, succeeded in reviving states' rights to decide certain issues
for themselves, limiting death penalty appeals, and relaxing the
division between church and state. Once the most conservative justice,
he came to be seen as more moderate than newcomers Antonin Scalia and
Rehnquist was less successful on social issues, failing to persuade the
majority to join his thinking on abortion, affirmative action, and gay
rights. But the 1986-2005 ''Rehnquist Court" will be remembered for
overseeing a rightward shift in the American judiciary in the last two
decades of the 20th century under a series of Republican presidencies.
''His term coincided with a huge Republican realignment, and he reaped
the benefit of it," said New York University constitutional law
professor Barry Friedman. ''The time was right for Rehnquist. The
politics came into alignment with him."
When President Nixon appointed Rehnquist to the Supreme Court in 1971,
it had been dominated by liberal justices who were sweeping through a
dizzying array of new rights -- the rights of welfare recipients not to
lose their checks, of criminal defendants against police and
prosecutors, of pregnant women to obtain an abortion, and many others. A
greater portion of public life was falling under the supervision of the
federal courts, provoking a backlash among conservatives.
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