March 20, 2012
In the Media
New Look at an Old Memo Casts More Doubt on Rehnquist
By Adam Liptak
The New York Times
March 19, 2012
In a new article in The
Boston College Law Review, two scholars reconstruct and analyze
another letter by Mr. Rehnquist, this one to Justice Felix
Frankfurter in 1955, and they draw some stinging conclusions.
"I think that Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be
reaffirmed." That's what Supreme Court law clerk William H.
Rehnquist wrote privately in December 1952 to his boss, Justice
Robert H. Jackson.When the memorandum was made public in 1971 and
Rehnquist's Supreme Court confirmation hung in the balance, he
claimed that the memorandum reflected Jackson's views, not
Rehnquist's. Rehnquist was confirmed, but his explanation triggered
charges that he had lied and smeared the memory of one of the
Court's most revered justices.
This Essay analyzes a newly discovered document, a letter
Rehnquist wrote to Justice Felix Frankfurter in 1955, criticizing
Jackson, that reveals what Rehnquist thought about Jackson shortly
after Brown and the Justice's death.