Ailing chief justice plans to swear in president next month
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) – Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, suffering from thyroid cancer, still plans to preside at President Bush’s inauguration on Jan. 20, The Associated Press has learned.
The chief justice normally swears in the president, but it has been unclear if Rehnquist will be well enough to participate.
“He has accepted the invitation to administer the oath of office,” spokeswoman Kathy Arberg told the AP on Friday.
Rehnquist has been away from the court since Oct. 22, when he was hospitalized and then underwent a tracheotomy to help him breathe. Medical experts have said his treatment, a combination of chemotherapy and radiation, is standard for anaplastic thyroid cancer, a fast-growing form.
So far Rehnquist has missed arguments in about 25 cases, and Arberg said she did not know if he would be on the bench when the justices return from the holiday break on Jan. 10.
Since announcing his illness, the 80-year-old Rehnquist has run the nation’s highest court from his home in suburban Virginia. He has written one decision and participated in five others. He rules on cases by reviewing transcripts of arguments, and relies on his law clerks for research.
Speculation about whether the illness will force Rehnquist to step down has continued since disclosure of the cancer.
Rehnquist has been on the court nearly 33 years. The most recent vacancy was in 1994.