While I was out at dinner with Mom Saturday, Scott, ever-concerned with our nation's political landscape, called to inform me that Chief Justice Rehnquist died. This came to no surprise as Rehnquist's health had been in visible decline for the last year.
Although his approval rating is at an all-time low, our most-vacationed president will take advantage of this powerful opportunity to keep the Supreme Court in the conservative realm for years to come. W. has the uncommon responsibility to nominate two justices at the same time; Sandra Day O'Connor announced her unexpected retirement in June.
W. announced today his nomination of the relatively young John Roberts, 50, to fill the chief justice position. Roberts will be the youngest member of the court, just as Rehnquist was when he was nominated to be an associate justice by Nixon in 1973.
This maintenance of conservativism in the most powerful position of the courts cannot be understated. While the chief justice has an equal vote to associate justices for deciding cases, his (I know making a masculine reference to this position is politically incorrect but all chief justices have been men) influence greatly affects court dynamics.
According to the Boston Globe: "The chief justice leads the Supreme Court's private deliberations, influencing the personal interactions and coalition-making that defines the court's operations. And once a case is decided by the court, the chief justice plays a sometimes overlooked role that often has huge import: When he is in the majority, he assigns the writing of the court's deciding opinion to either himself or one of his colleagues."
Roberts had already been nominated to replace O'Connor, and his elevated nomination came to no surprise. The relative youth of 50-year-old Roberts will prolong W.'s influence in the court's most powerful position and W. will likely nominate another young conservative suitor to replace O'Connor, who broke ground as the first-ever female justice.
O'Connor stood for women's rights and voted moderately, which made her powerful. She had the deciding vote in more cases than any other justice since 1994, according to the New York Times, and her conservative replacement will solidify conservative decisions.
Roe v. Wade review, here we come.