Rehnquist Has Died

I just heard on the news that Chief Justice William Rehnquist has died.

Now President Bush will appoint another justice either to Chief Justice, or to an Associate Justice and elevate a current Associate Justice to Chief Justice (probably the latter). I suspect that Bush, having just gone through the process of choosing Roberts as an appointment, knows who the prime candidates for this slot are.

It probably won’t affect the balance on the Court to replace a conservative like Rehnquist with another conservative. Certainly not as much as replacing O’Connor will.

I’m not sure how this will affect the Roberts confirmation hearings that are scheduled to begin on Tuesday, though. Also, from what I’ve heard, Roberts would probably make a better Chief Justice, temperamentally, than Scalia or Thomas who are seen as more divisive.

And, is there any chance of having a full court of nine justices in October?

We’ll have to wait and see.

UPDATE: Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy thinks not only that Roberts should be the Chief Justice nominee, but that he will be.

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