Evaluating the Rehnquist Court's Legacy

By Emrey, Jolly A. | Justice System Journal, January 1, 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Evaluating the Rehnquist Court's Legacy

Emrey, Jolly A., Justice System Journal

Special Issue, "Evaluating the Rehnquist Court's Legacy," Judicature 89 (November-December 2005): 104-85.

This special issue of Judicature, organized by Thomas Marshall, covers quite a number of subjects. Among them are examinations of Rehnquist's role as an administrator of the federal judiciary, the Court's frequent use of concurrences, the Court and public opinion, the Court's relationship with federal agencies, and the Court's review of state high-court decisions. Some of the articles provide good basic summaries but do not contribute much that is new. There are, however, a number of the articles that are worthy of particular note.

* Russell R. Wheeler, "Chief Justice Rehnquist as Third Branch Leader," 116-20.

Much of the focus on a chief justice's performance, Wheeler says, is on the more visible roles that he plays. However, the chief justice has also played an important administrative role since Taft presided over the Court. As an administrator, or "Third Branch Leader," the chief justice presides over the Judicial Conference of the United States. He appoints the director and deputy director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, which performs a number of duties involving "budget preparation and administration, personnel management, technology procurement, and statistical reporting" (p. 117). The chief justice also appoints over 200 federal judges to committee positions to make certain that the federal courts are functioning well internally. The author notes that these committee assignments are very important as the judges will often be addressing members of Congress about matters relevant to the courts.

During Chief Justice Rehnquist's tenure, the size of the federal judiciary, including courts, administrators, and staff, and the judicial budget grew tremendously. Wheeler examines both the appointments Rehnquist made over time and the manner in which Rehnquist handled his administrative duties. He finds that, while overall Rehnquist did appoint more Republicans than Democrats to chair committees, largely an artifact of the number of Republican presidential appointments, one should examine these appointments more closely. Wheeler's analysis reveals that as an administrator, Rehnquist was more concerned with distributing the chairmanships across circuits and making certain that newly appointed judges had an opportunity to serve. Rehnquist also made appointments to committees that would facilitate good working relationships with Congress.

Wheeler also discusses Rehnquist's staunch advocacy of the federal judiciary. In very recent years, Congress has limited sentencing discretion, and members of Congress have publicly threatened to impeach members of the federal bench for their decision making. In response, Rehnquist, as republican schoolmaster, reminded Congress about the role federal courts must sometimes play to correct wrongs and about failed attempts in our history to oust judges for making unpopular decisions.

Although Wheeler states that Rehnquist performed this function well and fairly, he concludes with some concerns about the changes in the federal judiciary-its growth in size, budget, and functions-and the ability of future chief justices to take on the responsibility of third-branch leader as it currently stands.

* Forrest Maltzman and Paul J. Wahlbeck, "Opinion Assignment on the Rehnquist Court," 121-26, 181.

Maltzman and Wahlbeck use the late Justice Harry A. Blackmun's papers to study Rehnquist's opinion assignments from 1986 to 1993. Rehnquist had stated that he was very concerned about equity when assigning opinions but added that he would take "the timely completion of majority opinion drafts, dissenting opinions, and the casting of votes" into consideration as well (p. 122). The authors note that political scientists have used primarily two different approaches to study opinion assignments. Opinion assignments made to ensure equity and harmony on the Court are what Maltzman and Wahlbeck refer to as the "organizational needs" model in which the chief justice takes care to distribute the opinion assignment evenly to promote harmony on the Court.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Evaluating the Rehnquist Court's Legacy


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?