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Professor writes book on Rehnquist Court

(Feb. 12, 2000)   —   Dr. Tinsley E. Yarbrough, an East Carolina University political science professor, has finished work on a book about Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who presided at the Senate impeachment trial of President Clinton.

The book, The Rehnquist Court and the Constitution, was published by Oxford University Press. While the book makes no reference to the Clinton impeachment hearings, it does contain insight into the career of the Supreme Court's Chief Justice. Yarbrough cites details of a memorandum Rehnquist wrote in 1954 while serving as a Supreme Count clerk.

The memo supports an 1896 court decision upholding the use of separate but equal facilities for blacks and whites. Later, when the memo came up in 1972 confirmation hearings, Rehnquist said he wrote the memorandum on behalf of the late Justice Robert Jackson, but Jackson's secretary refuted the claim. Another 1972 issue raised about Rehnquist pertained to his work as a legal counsel to President Nixon and testimony to a Senate sub-committee on Army surveillance of political protesters.

Yarbrough said Rehnquist later refused to excuse himself from a case that challenged the Army's surveillance program and the court elected to dismiss the case.

"I could go on an on, and all of this is detailed in the first chapter of my book," said Yarbrough. As far as the impeachment trial is concerned Yarbrough called it "just another irony in this whole, partisan mess."

"In Rehnquist's own book about the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, he favored a very narrow view of what is an impeachable offense and dismissed the case against Johnson (1868) as a 'political witch hunt.' It's going to be interesting to see what kinds of rulings he makes here when a political opponent, a relatively liberal democrat, is in the dock," he said.

In addition to his book about the Rehnquist court, Dr. Yarbrough is the author of five other books about judges and constitutional law. They are: The Judicial Enigma: The First Justice Harlan (published in 1995 by Oxford University Press); John Marshall Harlan: Great Dissenter of the Warren Court (Oxford, 1992); Mr. Justice Black and His Critics (Duke, 1988); A Passion for Justice (Oxford, 1987); and Judge Frank Johnson and Human Rights in Alabama (Ala., 1981).


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