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September 4, 2005

CJ Rehnquist has died

Ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist died late Saturday evening at his home, and the story is already thoroughly covered in posts here and here from SCOTUSblog, posts here and here from How Appealing, and here and here from TalkLeft.  I find the timing as stunning as the news, and the many, many legal and political ramifications of this sad news are hard to fully fathom at this late hour.  [UPDATE:  Law Dork has a terrific set of links here, and I have pondered some of the politics at PrawfsBlawg here.]

Though sentencing law and policy surely won't be the focal point of CJ Rehnquist retrospectives or potential nominee debates, this change in the composition of the Court, as with the change in Justice O'Connor's seat, could have a profound impact on both non-capital and capital sentencing jurisprudence.  As I detailed in this post way back in June, CJ Rehnquist served as a key fifth vote in the 5-4 decisions that produced the Almendarez-Torres "prior conviction exception" and the Harris "mandatory minimum" exception to the Apprendi-Blakely rule.  Also, CJ Rehnquist was a fairly consistent vote in favor of upholding death sentences; as detailed in this post, the Supreme Court already has on its docket for next term four significant death penalty cases.

I have linked below just some of the posts I have done on sentencing issues relating to Justice O'Connor's retirement and Judge Roberts' nomination that seem especially relevant at this moment:

September 4, 2005 at 01:53 AM | Permalink

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Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who had battled thyroid cancer since 2004, has died at age 80. Rehn [Read More]

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