William H. Rehnquist: A Life Lived Greatly, and Well

10 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2006


Chief Justice Rehnquist leaves behind a formidable and important legacy in constitutional law. His work on the Court was animated and guided by the view that We the People, through our Constitution, have authorized our federal courts, legislators, and administrators to do many things - but not everything. Because the Nation's powers are few and defined, Congress may not pursue every good idea or smart policy, nor should courts invalidate every foolish or immoral one.

However, for those of us who knew, worked with, learned from, and cared about William Rehnquist, it is his unassuming manner, the care he took to put people at ease, and his evident desire to serve as a teacher and mentor, as well as judge and employer, that are as salient in our memories of him as, say, his re-invigoration of the first principles of our federalism.

For more than three decades, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist served well the country and the Constitution. Put simply, and in Oliver Wendell Holmes's powerful words, "he live[d] greatly in the law". To his credit, though, Rehnquist's ambition was not so much to be great, but to live well.

Keywords: Rehnquist, Supreme Court, federalism, judicial restraint, constitutional law

JEL Classification: K10, K19

Suggested Citation

Garnett, Richard W., William H. Rehnquist: A Life Lived Greatly, and Well. Yale Law Journal, Vol. 115, 2006; Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 06-11. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=910555

Richard W. Garnett (Contact Author)

Notre Dame Law School ( email )

Room 327
P.O. Box 780
Notre Dame, IN 46556-0780
United States
574-631-6981 (Phone)
574-631-4197 (Fax)

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