William H. Rehnquist: Nixon's Strict Constructionist, Reagan's Chief Justice

Posted: 11 Feb 2003

See all articles by Keith E. Whittington

Keith E. Whittington

Princeton University - Department of Political Science


This chapter examines William Rehnquist and his constitutional arguments and jurisprudence in the context of the conservative critique of the Warren Court. Rehnquist's appointment to the Court by President Richard Nixon was, almost by accident, the one full realization of Nixon's goal of placing a "strict constructionist" on the bench, one who possessed both the intellectual capacity and jurisprudential ambition to rollback the work of the Warren Court. Similarly, Rehnquist's elevation to Chief Justice appropriately symbolized the Reagan administration's conservative constitutional ambitions, which Rehnquist had anticipated and shaped. Rehnquist's jurisprudence evidences a distrust of judicially enforced individual rights that do not have strong foundations in the constitutional text and its historical origins, while giving broader scope to the Court to act as an arbiter between the other branches of the national government and between the state and federal governments.

Keywords: William Rehnquist, Supreme Court, judicial review, original intent

JEL Classification: K19, K39, K40

Suggested Citation

Whittington, Keith E., William H. Rehnquist: Nixon's Strict Constructionist, Reagan's Chief Justice. The Structure of Rehnquist Court Jurisprudence, 2003. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=375142

Keith E. Whittington (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1012
United States
609-258-3453 (Phone)
609-258-1110 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.princeton.edu/~kewhitt/

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