Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court William Rehnquist, long known as a leading conservative voice on the court, has been hospitalized with complications due to thyroid cancer. He has previously been admitted in October of 2004, but later returned to active duty. With this latest hospitilization, the 81 year old Chief Justice is expected to announce a resignation, assuming he lives through the experience. Either way, it opens up a second seat on the nine-person Supreme Court- these openings will be filled by appointments from Mr. Bush. Unfortunately for Mr. Bush, Mr. Rehnquist is known as a consistent and hardline conservative, so even assuming Mr. Bush places a highly conservative judge on the court, it will do little to alter the court's make up. In fact, due to the fact that Presidential Supreme Court appointments must receive Senate confirmation, a staunch resistance by minority Democrats could result in a more moderate or center-right Justice being placed on the Supreme Court. This is the same situation the Republicans face with Mrs. O'Connor: though more of a moderate conservative, she is mostly thought of as a center-right voter, and therefore her replacement with a conservative may not significantly alter the Supreme Court's composition. The possible resignation of Mr. Rehnquist differs in one major way form the resignation of Mrs. O'Connor: Mrs. O'Connor opened up a seat as an Associate Justice, Mr. Rehnquist must be replaced first as a Justice, and second as Chief Justice. One of the current Justices must be named by President Bush to be the new Chief Justice. It was commonly thought that Mrs. O'Connor would assume the role of Chief Justice eventually; due to her leadership qualities she usually presided over the Court in Mr. Rehnquist's abscence. With her resignation, it is likely that Mr. Bush will appoint conservative Justice Mr. Clarence Thomas. Mr. Antonin Scalia is the only hard-line conservative on the Court, but he is so drastically to the right that it is likely that a Democratic minority in the Senate would block his nomination. Furthermore, Mr. Thomas' relative youth would mean he would continue to be a powerful conservative voice for many years to come. The nation could receive quite a shock, however, if the Democrats truly made their presence felt and brought about the appointment of Associate Justice Kennedy, a moderate center-left swing voter. Next Justice expected to vacate a seat? The staunchly liberal Associate Justice Mr. John Paul Stevens, at a sprightly 85 years old. Due to his political views, it is expected that he will attempt to forestall his retirement until a more liberal President, to forestall his replacement with a conservative. If, however, Mr. Stevens comes to the end of his lofty life, or health concerns force him to retire, before the end of Mr. Bush's term in office, we shall truly see some fighting in the nation's capital. Mr. Steven's replacement with a conservative could truly alter the composition of the court on a fundamental level, giving hard-line conservatives a five-person majority.