Thursday, September 22, 2005


Remember this face

John Roberts pretty much sailed through his confirmation hearings and the Senate Judiciary Committee. Now 50, he's likely to be on the court a long time: a 25-30 year tenure would be quite within the range of reasonable expectations.

Roberts at 50, left, will look like the 70something Rehnquist,
right, before we see the last of him.

William Rehnquist was just around 48 years old when he was appointed to the Supreme Court. I remember pictures at the time of a middle aged man with black hair, not much gray, and lingering traces of youth. Not unlike Roberts, though Roberts has a haircut that is conservative to the point of quaintness, whereas Rehnquist had sideburns that were slightly to the modish of center.

Supreme Court justices don't get their pictures in the papers all that much or make many public appearances -- even less in the 1970s and 1980s than now. I saw very few if any images of Rehnquist for many years, none that made much of an impression on me. So when I went to the Supreme Court in 1999 to watch an argument on a case I had worked on, I was struck by how old Rehnquist looked. Not that he looked old for the 75 year old man he was then, but he looked old for the 48 year old man frozen in my memory.

I'm several years younger than Roberts, so I stand a good chance of seeing him age like Rehnquist. In my current line of work, I see images of the justices much more often, so I probably won't experience similar shock. But maybe you will. Check back on him in 20 years and see what you think.

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