Two Questions about SCOTUS

I figured this belongs more in GD than GQ…

  1. Chief Justice Rehnquist is putting up a certain brave front in light of his obviously failing health. He seems to want look like he’s still large and in charge. I this a power thing (i.e. he isn’t ready or it isn’t politically convenient to appear weak) or is he actually going to pull through? If he is as physically weak as he seems, why doesn’t he retire? Perhaps, in light of Justice O’Connor’s departure, he wants to at least keep an appearance of status quo on the SCOTUS bench?

2)Who will become Chief Justice once Rehnquist can no longer perform his duties?

  1. My take on Rehnquist is twofold. First, he’s leery of stepping down while Bush is in the White House following the 2000 Bush v Gore case. This may not hold for much longer as health issues gain greater importance for him. Second, I think he really gets a kick out of his job.

  2. When a Chief Justice leaves the court the President gets to nominate a replacement. This may be a sitting Associate Justice or could be a completely new nomineee. Either way, the person nominated needs to go through Senate confirmation. So nominating a sitting Associate Justice means TWO confirmation fights instead of one (there would also, obviously, be a replacement justice nominated).

I also think it’s possible that he simply didn’t want to overshadow O’Connor’s retirement.

  1. Nobody knows but the Chief Justice himelf. I would imagine that he stays because he feels that he can still do the job and contribute.

  2. When the Chief Justice leaves the bench (or is temporarily absent, as when he was being treated earlier this year) the senior Associate Justice, currently John Paul Stevens, takes over the functions of the Chief Justice.

As mentioned above, the President nominates, with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoints, the Chief Justice. Historically, most Chief Justices have not been sitting Associate Justices.