The Chief Justice of the United States, William Rehnquist, has died. He was 80 years old. Mr. Rehnquist spent 33 years on the Supreme Court and was its chief justice since 1986. He died late Saturday at his home outside Washington , with his children at his side, after nearly a year battling thyroid cancer.
Speaking at the White House on Sunday, President Bush called the death of Justice Rehnquist a great loss for the U.S. court system and the country. He said the late chief justice was extremely well-respected for his powerful intellect and deep commitment to the rule of law. Mr. Rehnquist's long tenure on the bench was marked by strongly conservative beliefs and views on constitutional issues. His passing creates a second vacancy on the nine-judge court, following the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. President Bush said it serves the nation's best interests to fill those vacancies promptly, and indicated he will quickly pick a candidate to succeed Mr. Rehnquist. This week, the Senate is due to begin hearings on his choice for the first opening, federal appeals court judge John Roberts.