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'Tale of Two Justices'

August 23, 1986

We were shocked that your paper saw fit to tie your endorsement of Rose Bird with your endorsement of William Rehnquist. The two cases clearly are not the same. In the first place, the chief justice of the United States is chosen by a narrow constituency--the President and the U.S. Senate, whereas the chief justice of the state Supreme Court will be decided by all eligible voters.

Secondly, the power of the U.S. Supreme Court over the future of American society dwarfs the role of the state Supreme Court. In the case of Rose Bird overturning 35 death penalty cases, she had the support of the majority of the court, including some conservatives. These cases were overturned because of violations of the California Constitution and California statutes. Rose Bird's character and integrity have never been brought into question.

In the case of Rehnquist's fitness to be confirmed as chief justice, there are serious questions of his character and integrity. Serious allegations were made under oath by respectable witnesses at his confirmation hearing that he intimidated minority voters, which he denied.

Secondly, his memo to the late Justice Robert Jackson of the Supreme Court expressing his personal views urging that segregation not be ruled unconstitutional were his personal views rather than the opinion of Jackson.

In the current confirmation hearings he chose to be evasive or perhaps lied. When questioned about memos he wrote in the Nixon Justice Department, he said he didn't recall. He also was evasive in his knowledge of the restrictive covenant in his title deed in Vermont. This behavior should be of concern because integrity and candor are essential for a chief justice.

We believe that The Times lacked courage by having Rehnquist's endorsement ride on the coattails of Bird. We share with your opinion stated in the editorial: "Rehnquist's views on civil rights, on free speech, on church and state, on the role of women, in our opinion run counter to the more generous and progressive nature of this Republic."

We infer then that you concur with Rose Bird's views on these crucial issues. On the basis of his lack of integrity and forthrightness we believe that this person does not deserve the highest judicial position in the United States.




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