<< Home

Supreme Court

From the Bench: The Constitutional Statesmanship of Chief Justice William Rehnquist

Few justices in history have had as much impact as has William H. Rehnquist, the 16th chief justice of the Supreme Court, argued Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit, in his Walter Berns Annual Constitution Day address. Serving the Supreme Court over 33 years, 15 as chief justice, Chief Justice Rehnquist was at the helm of major national events, presiding over the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton and keeping the Court intact during perhaps the single-most controversial moment in Supreme Court history, Bush v. Gore.

He was a scholar and a jurist and brought about a massive change in constitutional law and how we think about the Constitution, with an especially enduring impact on American law regarding criminal procedure, religion, federalism, unenumerated rights, and administrative law. Chief Justice Rehnquist sought to alter the debate about the proper role of judges and strove to make the Supreme Court more of an institution of law, where the Court’s power is to interpret and apply the law as written, informed by historical practice and not by its own personal and policy predilections. At his death, The New York Times said Chief Justice Rehnquist had “one of the most consequential tenures of Supreme Court history.”


Event (September 18): From the Bench: Judge Brett Kavanaugh on the Constitutional Statesmanship of Chief Justice William Rehnquist

Over more than three decades in service to the Supreme Court, Chief Justice William Rehnquist stressed the importance of constitutional structure to preserving individual liberty. Always emphasizing the role of the courts in maintaining that structure, Chief Justice Rehnquist redirected American law in key areas — most notably, federalism, congressional power, criminal procedure, and religion. Through his opinions, articles, and books, he demonstrated how to be a modern constitutional statesman, deserving commemoration and celebration.

Please join AEI for the sixth annual Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture, as Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit, discusses the jurisprudence and legacy of the late Justice Rehnquist on the 230th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.


AEI Event: The Court: Power, Policy, and Self-government

Judges must navigate between interpreting the Constitution and statutes, working within existing precedents and applying both bodies of law to particular cases. Striking this balance has policy consequences that render the Supreme Court a political branch in the public’s mind. As the heated debate over Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement demonstrates, the Court is no longer seen as the “least dangerous branch.”

How should justices address this tension in their decisions and opinions? Can the Court return to a narrower vision of its judicial duty? If not, what judicial philosophy best fits the reality of the Court’s role in a self-governing republic?

Join AEI for a timely discussion between Judge Brett Kavanaugh and The Wall Street Journal’s Paul Gigot, followed by an expert panel on the Court’s challenges in carrying out its duty to “say what the law is.”


One Person, One Vote: It’s more complicated than it sounds

Evenwell v. Abbott has the substance to be among the most important voting cases of the past 60 years—at its heart, it reaches beyond legalistic or judicial considerations of apportionment processes to pose the question to American society about how a free government acknowledges the political equality of its citizens.


No Person is born already in love with his country, AP poll agrees

Sound citizens are a requirement for the practice of democracy. Creating sound citizens is predicated on inculcating sound character habits and dispositions through a variety of means. But even these worthy goals are insufficient if unaccompanied by efforts to cultivate within American citizens the appreciation of the value or worthiness of the American political order. Without an understanding of the pillars of the American way of life, there can be no firm attachment to or love of country. Citizens who lack an inner compulsion to invest in their regime are adrift not only from their community at large, but also from perpetuating its core principles and supporting institutions.


Lawyers and civic education

Writing in The Atlantic, Randall T. Shepard, a former Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, argues that the legal profession has an important role to play in strengthening the civic education and engagement of the general public.


Stolen Valor Act ruled unconstitutional

In addition to releasing its opinion on the Affordable Health Care Act yesterday, the Supreme Court also issued its decision in United States v. Alvarez, deciding that the Stolen Valor Act violated the First Amendment of the Constitution.