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Update on the Chief Justice

The continuing side-effects of Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s treatment for thyroid cancer will again keep him away from the Supreme Court’s public sessions over the next two weeks. Other news stories, linked below, reported his continuing absence. Here is the full explanation as provided Friday by the Court’s public information officer, Kathleen L. Arberg:

“For the same reasons he was not on the bench in January, Chief Justice Rehnquist will not sit on the bench for the Court session beginning Tuesday, February 22. He will continue to read briefs and transcripts of oral argument, participate in conference, and vote on cases.”

The statement last month, released on Jan. 7, gave these reasons: “continuing secretions caused by his tracheotomy and radiation therapy.”

Rehnquist is continuing to work part-time in his chambers and the conference room at the Coiurt, and part-time at his home. He apparently participated in today’s conference discussing possible grants of new cases – any grants will be announced Tuesday – and the timing and number of release of final opinions next week. The Court will not hold a session Monday because of the President’s Day holiday. Justice John Paul Stevens, the senior associate justice, will preside in public.

The Chief Justice has been seen only once in public since October 18: at President Bush’s inaugural ceremonies January 20. He missed the Court’s hearing sessions in November, December and January, but has taken part in a number of the final decisions emerging from several of those sessions – including the widely split 5-4 rulings in the Sentencing Guidelines cases, Booker and Fanfan.