WASHINGTON — William H. Rehnquist was sworn in Friday as the 16th chief justice of the United States and heard a presidential plea to follow a course of "judicial restraint" that is neither conservative nor liberal.
In his first act in his new position, Rehnquist formally swore in Antonin Scalia as an associate justice.
For Rehnquist, the ceremonies at the White House and the Supreme Court brought a dignified end to what had been a bruising three-month struggle to move to the center seat on the high court. Civil rights groups had accused him of being "hostile" to blacks, women and other minorities, but the Senate confirmed him last week on a 65-33 vote.
Without referring to the controversy, President Reagan Friday restated his reasons for nominating Rehnquist, calling him "one of America's most brilliant jurists."
During his court service since 1972, "he has distinguished himself through the brilliance of his reason and the clarity and craftsmanship of his opinions," Reagan said. "I nominated William Rehnquist because I believe he will be a chief justice of historic stature."
Founding Fathers Cited
Reagan added that he had nominated Rehnquist and Scalia with the principle of judicial restraint "very much in mind. The founding fathers were clear on this issue. For them, the question w1634934894or conservative courts?" he said. "The question was and is: Will we have government by the people?"
Since the 1960s, political conservatives such as Reagan have criticized the Supreme Court for striking down federal or state laws as violations of the Constitution. For example, in 1972, the justices struck down death penalty laws in 41 states, concluding that they were "arbitrarily" administered. The next year, the court struck down all state laws prohibiting abortion, saying they violated an implicit "right to privacy" provided by the Constitution.
Rehnquist, as an associate justice, dissented from both rulings, saying that the court should defer to elected legislatures on such thorny issues.
In the 1930s, political liberals advocated judicial restraint because a conservative court had struck down a series of liberal measures enacted to further President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.
"Progressive as well as conservative judges have insisted on the importance" of judicial restraint, Reagan said, quoting Justice Felix Frankfurter as saying that "the highest exercise of judicial duty is to subordinate one's personal pull and one's private views to the law."
Rehnquist spoke only briefly at the White House ceremony Friday--in which retiring Chief Justice Warren E. Burger administered to both men the oath taken by all presidential appointees--telling Reagan that he was "grateful beyond measure to you for affording me the opportunity to serve the court and to serve my country as chief justice of the United States."
"I pray that God will grant me the patience, the wisdom and the fortitude to worthily follow in the footsteps of my illustrious predecessors in discharging the responsibilities of this high office," said Rehnquist, who turns 62 on Wednesday.
Scalia, who was confirmed last week on a 98-0 vote, also thanked Reagan for nominating him. In addition, Scalia, the father of nine children, praised his wife, Maureen, "who's an extraordinary woman, and without whom I wouldn't be here. Or, if I were here, it wouldn't have been as much fun along the way."
Pose With Burger
Before the afternoon ceremony, Rehnquist and Scalia posed for photographers on the marble steps of the Supreme Court building with Burger.
Inside, before a packed courtroom, the two justices took a second, official oath, with Burger swearing in Rehnquist and the new chief justice swearing in Scalia. Both promised to "administer justice without respect to persons and do equal right to the poor and to the rich." Neither made any comments after the swearing-in at the court.
The first term of the "Rehnquist court" opens on Oct. 6.