The Rehnquist Court (1986–2005)


When did William Rehnquist become chief justice?

President Ronald Reagan nominated then-Associate Justice Rehnquist to the position of chief justice on June 20, 1986. The Senate confirmed him by a vote of 65–33. In October 2004, Rehnquist underwent surgery for thyroid cancer. Speculation ran rampant that Rehnquist would retire in July 2005. However, Rehnquist issued a statement that month, saying that he planned to continue as chief justice as long as his health enabled him to do so. But he lost his battle with cancer in September 2005.

Clarence Thomas (above) was the subject of very stressful confirmation hearings in 1991 after being nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President George H. W. Bush. A subordinate from years earlier claimed Thomas had sexually harassed her, a charge he vehemently denied. Getty Images.

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