Rehnquist Drug Abuse And Mental Health Issues Highlight Problems In Removing Unfit Judges From The Bench
The newly reported drug and mental health issues with William Rehnquist highlight problems in a judicial system that protects and insulates judges who may be unfit due to problems with alcohol abuse, drugs, health, mental health, advanced age or other factors. Republicans in the Nixon and Reagan Administrations probably were well aware of the problems with William Rehnquist, yet allowed him to be confirmed and then made Chief Justice. Rehnquist was the deciding vote in a large number of 5 to 4 split decisions in the Supreme Court.
Rehnquist also failed to recuse himself from cases dealing with both drug use and the CIA, since he had some wierd delusions involving the CIA. Rehnquist also was the deciding vote on a huge number of cases, sometimes writing a bizarre reasoning for the majority opinion. In a death penalty case for example, Rehnquist reasoned that a plaintiff may indeed be innocent based on newly discovered evidence, but should be put to death anyway because of some artificial deadline established by the state for final appeals. Such confounded reasoning may be the result of mental impairment.
Some state courts have had some unfit judges as well. In Portland, Oregon a judge, Shirley Field, displayed some obvious signs of mental illness as well as alcohol abuse, yet it was a lengthy period before she could be removed from the bench. Some important cases involving the life and death of some defendants and what evidence would be allowed or disallowed were ruled on by this judge before she was removed due to serious mental fitness issues.
Judges will face complex cases in which careful and fair rulings on what evidence will be allowed certainly call for a very clear mind. No doubt most judges are fair and carefully weigh evidence, but in the cases in which impaired or mentally ill judges sit on a bench, there needs to be mechanisms to question the fitness of some judges in order to ensure a fair trial for those involved in the justice system.