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Chief Justice Dies

By: AP
By: AP

Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who served more than 30 years on the Supreme Court, has died. He was 80.

A statement from a court spokeswoman says he was surrounded by his three children when he died in Arlington, Virginia, Saturday evening after battling thyroid cancer.

Rehnquist was first appointed to the high court in 1971, taking his seat the following January. Appointed Chief Justice in 1986, he presided over the longest stretch of Supreme Court continuity in modern history.

Despite the increasing physical problems of age, Rehnquist remained invigorated by the job.

In October 2004, a terse announcement of Rehnquist's battle with thyroid cancer caught even the closest Supreme Court observers off guard.

In the months that followed, Rehnquist worked mainly from home. He made his first public appearance since the diagnosis when he delivered the oath of office at President Bush's second inauguration.

Rehnquist was a conservative who campaigned for presidential candidates Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon. Early in his Supreme Court tenure, his beliefs netted him the title of "lone ranger" among more liberal colleagues. He wrote stinging dissents in cases upholding abortion rights and busing.

A series of conservative appointments later put him at the forefront of several major majority rulings. But he's been criticized for the Bush-Gore ruling in 2000 and came out on the short end in decisions involving disability law, affirmative action and gay rights.

Only one Chief Justice, Roger Taney was older, presiding at age 87.

Only John Marshall and William O. Douglass served on the court longer.


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