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Rehnquist treated at hospital for fever

Chief justice back home after seeking care second time in month

From Bill Mears
CNN Washington Bureau

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Supreme Court
William H. Rehnquist

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Chief Justice William Rehnquist was treated for a fever at a hospital Thursday afternoon and returned home later, a Supreme Court spokesman said.

It was the second time in less than a month that the 80-year-old chief justice, who has been battling thyroid cancer, sought care for a fever at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, near his home.

In July, Rehnquist spent two nights at the same hospital after developing a fever.

He was not admitted Thursday, the spokesman said, and one source described the trip as a "precautionary" measure.

Rehnquist was working at the Supreme Court at the time he became ill and was taken to the hospital from there, sources told CNN.

Shortly after he returned home in July, his family issued a statement saying he had no plans to step down from the Supreme Court because of his health. (Full story)

"I will continue to perform my duties as chief justice as long as my health permits," he said in the statement, which was designed to end persistent speculation that he might be about to retire.

Rehnquist was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in October and has undergone outpatient chemotherapy and radiation.

His office has refused to characterize the seriousness of his illness, which forced him to work from home for several months and miss oral arguments in a number of cases.

He returned to his office in December, and was back on the bench by March.

He still looks somewhat frail, relying on a cane and using a wheelchair and walker occasionally.

His voice is raspy, occasionally weak, from a tracheotomy tube inserted after his initial diagnosis. He has joked to friends he sounds like Darth Vader from the "Star Wars" films.

Many court watchers expected Rehnquist to announce his departure when the court concluded its annual session in June.

Instead, his colleague, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, 75, announced her retirement, while Rehnquist remained mum on his plans.

President Bush nominated Judge John Roberts of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to replace O'Connor. Confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin September 6.

Rehnquist was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1972 by President Richard Nixon and elevated to chief justice in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan.

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