Hot Document

Rehnquist’s Skeletons, Part 2

Time for another nibble from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s twin background checks on William Rehnquist, conducted when Rehnquist was nominated for Supreme Court justice in 1971 and, later, when Rehnquist was nominated for chief justice in 1986. (To see our previous “Hot Document” on Rehnquist, click here.)

Today’s document is a medical record from Rehnquist’s Dec. 1981 stay at George Washington University Hospital for a chronic back ailment. While in the hospital, Rehnquist was taken off the prescription sedative Placidyl, to which he’d been addicted for at least four years. The hospital’s “clinical record” (see below) describes the hallucinations that Rehnquist suffered as a result. In the record’s fourth entry, we learn that Rehnquist told a nurse, “Voices outside the room are saying they’re going to kill the President.” The nurse “walked the [patient] out in the hall so he could see that no one” was there. Rehnquist was returned to his hospital room to eat his lunch. At “1300 hours” (in civilian time, 1 p.m.), the Supreme Court justice cried, “There is gas coming out of the radiator.” Mr. Justice Rehnquist bolted from his room, hospital gown flapping, and made it all the way to the elevator before he was spotted and escorted back by hospital security. This at a time when Rehnquist was already considered the most influential justice on the court! Oyeziz mir!

Thanks again to attorney Alex Charns, author of Cloak and Gavel: FBI Wiretaps, Bugs, Informers, and the Supreme Court, who provided the document, which the FBI released as part of a giant Freedom of Information Act dump of Rehnquist-related material.

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