WASHINGTON – Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist has been hospitalized with a fever, a setback that fueled more retirement speculation about the 33-year veteran of the Supreme Court.
The 80-year-old Rehnquist was taken by ambulance to Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va., on Tuesday night and was admitted for observation and tests, Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said Wednesday. She would not release other information, including his condition.
Despite having thyroid cancer, Rehnquist has maintained a regular work routine and defied expectations that bad health would force him to leave the court.
There was no indication that the news would affect President Bush’s selection of a candidate – or the timing of an announcement – for replacing Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who announced earlier this month that she was stepping down.
Rehnquist, who began receiving chemotherapy and radiation in October, has said very little publicly about his prognosis and nothing about his future at the court.
A month ago, most court watchers thought Rehnquist’s retirement was inevitable. But many justices in history have kept working until the end. There have been just 15 previous chief justices, and eight served until their deaths.