We extend our condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who served for more than three decades on the Supreme Court and was an advocate for an independent federal judiciary.
While we vigorously disagreed with much of his jurisprudence, we remember with respect the Chief Justice’s love for the Court, his success in creating comity among his colleagues, and his courage in continuing to work in the face of daunting health problems.
The Chief Justice’s death comes at a moment of great crisis in our nation. We are all witness to the overwhelming human needs that require the full attention of our leaders. The character and strength of our nation will be defined by our response to the tragedies unfolding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The nation will also be shaped for decades by decisions that are made by President Bush and the Senate about the future of the Supreme Court. Our commitment to protecting individual freedom and our ability to address important issues through national action are at stake. The very nature of our constitutional system of government is in the balance. While the long-term consequences of two new justices will be monumental, filling the vacancies on the Supreme Court is not an emergency requiring hasty action. Indeed, at this moment in our history, with so much at stake, the President and the Senate should proceed with great care and deliberation.