The Chief Justice of the United States, William Rehnquist, has died after battling thyroid cancer for nearly a year. He was 80 years old.
Mr. Rehnquist, a 33-year veteran of the Supreme Court and its principal judge since 1986, died with his children at his side at his home near Washington.
The White House released a brief statement late Saturday expressing President Bush's deep sadness, and said the president will speak about Mr. Rehnquist after attending a Sunday morning church service.
Mr. Rehnquist's strongly conservative beliefs and views on constitutional issues were a hallmark of his time on the bench. Despite increasing signs of illness on the few occasions when he appeared in public, he issued a brief statement earlier this
year saying he would continue serving on the nation's highest court as long as possible.
His passing creates a second vacancy on the nine-judge court, following the retirement several months ago of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. President Bush now has an unusual opportunity to grant lifetime appointments to two new justices at virtually the same time.
The president's first choice, federal appeals court judge John Roberts, was announced some time ago. Congress has just returned from a summer recess and is about to begin public hearings this week to examine Mr. Roberts' qualifications and
his background, which includes extensive legal work in the past for former President Ronald Reagan.