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Rehnquist's condition is under wraps more than KFC's secret recipe

Why has there been no update on the condition of Rehnquist? (AP):

“Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist’s health is shrouded in mystery, the extent of his thyroid cancer a closely guarded secret. Several coming events could give the public an idea about the seriousness of his condition. Since announcing his illness in a statement on Oct. 25, the 80-year-old Rehnquist has run the nation’s highest court from his home in suburban Virginia. He rules on cases by reviewing transcripts of arguments and passing along his votes to justices. Opinions are largely researched and drafted by law clerks. Administrative tasks fall to a top aide.

The only update on his condition came in a short statement from the court three weeks ago. It said he was receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatments, which some doctors familiar with thyroid cancer said suggests Rehnquist has a fast-growing cancer.

Speculation about whether he will step down and give the court its first opening since 1994 has swirled since disclosure of the illness. Three events could offer telling signs of Rehnquist’s future after nearly 33 years on the high court, the last 18 as chief justice.

_The return of the court, which next hears arguments on Nov. 29.

_The annual court Christmas party on Dec. 17, an event Rehnquist relishes.

_President Bush’s inauguration on Jan. 20. The chief justice normally swears in the president. Bush could choose another justice or other government official.

The court can function indefinitely without a chief justice; the only constitutionally required duty is to preside over a presidential impeachment trial. But the pressure on Rehnquist to disclose his plans will become too great for him to remain silent, predicted David J. Garrow, a law professor at Emory University and Supreme Court historian.

‘I don’t think things will stay in abeyance beyond January,’ he said.

The Supreme Court has operated “

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding