Rehnquist, William Hubbs (rĕnˈkwĭst) [key], 1924–2005, American public official, 16th chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1986–2005), b. Milwaukee, Wis., as William Donald Rehnquist. After receiving his law degree from Stanford Univ. in 1952, he served (1952–53) as law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson. The following year he went to Phoenix, where he practiced law and became involved in conservative Republican politics. He was (1968–71) an assistant U.S. attorney general, heading the office of legal counsel in the Dept. of Justice before being named (1971) an associate justice of the Supreme Court by President Nixon. Generally regarded as one of the more conservative members of the late 20th cent. Supreme Court, Rehnquist became known as an advocate of law and order, writing several opinions reversing the liberal trend of the Earl Warren court in criminal cases. He was named chief justice in 1986 by President Reagan, succeeding Warren Burger. The Rehnquist court was generally conservative, but the conservatism of the chief justice and the more ideological Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas was tempered beginning in the late 1990s by the emergence of a judicially restrained bloc of justices including Sandra Day O'Connor, David Souter, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
See biography by J. A. Jenkins (2012).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.