The Rehnquist Court

Understanding Its Impact and Legacy

by David L. Hudson, Jr.


Introduces the major accomplishments and controversies of the Rehnquist Court (1986-2005), placing it in historical context with the preceding Warren and Burger Courts and examining its legacy.

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December 2006


Pages 208
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Politics, Law, and Government/Law
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For nearly 20 years, William Hubbs Rehnquist served as the 16th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. During these two decades, the Court issued major decisions involving federalism, abortion, affirmative action, civil rights, privacy, and the 2000 presidential election. Throughout his tenure, Justice Rehnquist was conventionally perceived as a conservative, partly for the anti-civil rights memos he had written earlier in his career. He became a lightning rod for controversy during his confirmation hearings in 1972 for Associate Justice and again in 1986 when he became Chief Justice. Surprisingly, however, Hudson's balanced, nonpartisan examination of the Rehnquist Court and its personalities shows that Rehnquist's conservatism is quite mild compared to that of the ideological purity of Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, and that Rehnquist did an admirable job of playing moderator as Chief Justice, exhibiting sensitivity toward his colleagues.



"In this single volume, Hudson has produced a chronicle of William Rehnquist's 33-year service on the Supreme Court, with 19 years as chief justice. A dedicated conservative, Rehnquist was a controversial figure in his public life, from his clerkship to Robert Jackson through his initial public service in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. Hudson takes the reader through two contentious confirmation hearings following Rehnquist's appointment to the bench by President Nixon and later to the chief justiceship by President Reagan. Before moving to the bulk of the study--an analysis of the major public law decisions of the Rehnquist period--the author profiles the 14 justices who served as colleagues prior to Rehnquist's appointment as chief, and later under his leadership. Constitutional areas under Hudson's microscope are federalism, freedom of religion and speech, criminal law, affirmative action, abortion, and gay rights....[t]he book is enlightening reading for the public as well as for the professionals. Recommended. General readers, upper-division undergraduates through faculty."Choice

"Hudson presents an overview and assessment of the Supreme Court during the tenure of the recently deceased Chief Justice, William J. Rehnquist. Career and other biographical information for Rehnquist open the volume, followed by a chapter profiling justices serving during Rehnquist's tenure at the head of Court. Subsequent chapters explore the views of Rehnquist and court rulings as they related to federalism; freedom of religion; freedom of expression; habeas corpus and capital punishment; other areas of criminal law; and abortion, gay rights, and affirmative action. The final chapter assesses Rehnquist as an efficient and fair administrator of the Court who articulated a consistent conservative judicial philosophy and remained committed to judicial independence."Reference & Research Book News


"Much like the Rehnquist Court itself, The Rehnquist Court provides Americans of all views with facts and findings that will confirm, inflame, delight and provoke, as it takes readers inside this pivotal group and the major issues of our time."—Gene Policinski, Executive Director, First Amendment Center

"Although the final day of the Rehnquist Court occurred only months ago, David Hudson has managed to appraise the jurisprudence of that Court and the leadership of its Chief Justice with a clarity and perspective one would expect only after years had passed from the end of such a complex era. This is a most readable and informative book, valuable to lawyers and non-lawyers alike, offering important insight into a portentous era in the evolution of the Supreme Court and of American constitutional law."—Robert M. O'Neil, Founding Director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, Law Professor at the University of Virginia

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