New Look at an Old Memo Casts More Doubt on Rehnquist





...“I realize it is an unpopular and unhumanitarian position, for which I have been excoriated by ‘liberal’ colleagues,” Mr. [William] Rehnquist wrote [in a 1952 memo], “but I think Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed.”...

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....

The new law review article makes the case that “Rehnquist’s disappointment with Brown provides the most plausible motivation for his harsh 1955 letter about [the justice for whom he clerked, Robert H.] Jackson.” The article supports this theory by, among other things, reviewing Mr. Rehnquist’s letters to Justice Jackson, which were admiring and supportive until Brown and ceased after the decision was issued.

The article also contends that the 1955 letter from Mr. Rehnquist to Justice Frankfurter “would have been a bombshell” had it been revealed at the 1971 or 1986 confirmation hearings.

Perhaps. But the new evidence only buttresses information available at the time that undermined the account offered by the future chief justice....



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