WASHINGTON — Ailing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist said today that judges must be protected from political threats, including from conservative Republicans who maintain that "judicial activists" should be impeached and removed from office.
"The Constitution protects judicial independence not to benefit judges, but to promote the rule of law: Judges are expected to administer the law fairly, without regard to public reaction," the chief justice, whose future on the court is subject to wide speculation, said in his traditional year-end report on the federal courts.
The public, the press and politicians are certainly free to criticize judges, Rehnquist said, but politicians cross the line when they try to punish or impeach judges for decisions they do not agree with.
His comments come as the new Congress faces what many predict will be a contentious battle over President Bush's nominees to the federal bench. And if Rehnquist's health forces him to announce his retirement, there would be more partisan wrangling over his successor.
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The poor old bastard's gonna hang on as long as possible. If he wasn't planning to, why didn't he just retire when he was diagnosed? He sure as hell doesn't need the money. I know a little about thyroid cancer. Hopefully, Rhenquist doesn't have the kind that took my mom, because it took her quickly (thankfully for her). Rhenquist sees what's happening and he's trying to protect the Court as the last bastion of objective thinking in this country. And it looks like he's willing to give his life to do it.