The Ingenious, Humorous, and Loving Engagement Announcement of Future Justice William H. Rehnquist

While a Supreme Court law clerk, Rehnquist and his soon-to-be wife sign an announcement in the form of a pleading, stating “that the interest of love, Justice, and general equity requires the allowance of his petition”.

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Rehnquist served on the U.S. Supreme Court for 33 years, first as an Associate Justice from 1972 to 1986, and then as the 16th Chief justice from 1986 until his death in 2005. He was the fourth-longest-serving chief justice.

Rehnquist started his long and distinguished legal career by obtaining the coveted spot...

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The Ingenious, Humorous, and Loving Engagement Announcement of Future Justice William H. Rehnquist

While a Supreme Court law clerk, Rehnquist and his soon-to-be wife sign an announcement in the form of a pleading, stating “that the interest of love, Justice, and general equity requires the allowance of his petition”.

Rehnquist served on the U.S. Supreme Court for 33 years, first as an Associate Justice from 1972 to 1986, and then as the 16th Chief justice from 1986 until his death in 2005. He was the fourth-longest-serving chief justice.

Rehnquist started his long and distinguished legal career by obtaining the coveted spot of Supreme Court law clerk, clerking for Justice Robert H. Jackson during the court’s 1952–1953 term. Theirs was an unusual match in that Jackson was a New Deal Democrat and Rehnquist was a Republican and conservative. Rehnquist met Natalie Ann Cornell while they were at Stanford University. She was the daughter of a successful San Diego physician, and was in Washington working as an analyst on the CIA’s Austria desk while he was clerking at the Supreme Court. They fell in love and decided to marry.

Rehnquist determined to create a wedding announcement that would be both memorable and creative. He set it up as a Supreme Court pleading, specifically as a petition to intervene; however, rather than intervening in a lawsuit, he pleaded to intervene in the Cornell family by becoming part of it. He was the plaintiff, and the defendants were Natalie, her parents, and her siblings. He stresses that he loves Natalie, and would be compatible with the family’s Republican leanings.

Typed document signed, Washington, April 21, 1953. “NOW comes your petitioner, William H. Rehnquist, to move this honorable court to allow him to intervene in the family of the above named respondents. Feeling great love and affection for the above first named respondent, he pleads that the interest of love, Justice, and general equity requires the allowance of his petition. He avers that notwithstanding his fourteen months residence in the city of Washington, he remains honest and incorruptible (politically, that is) and that his own reactionary background should mingle effortlessly with the notorious black Republicanism of the respondent clan.”

He then notes at the bottom that a consent order was entered in the case; in other words, that Natalie and her family have agreed to the match. “NOTE TO ADDRESSEE: Your attention is called to the fact that Natalie Ann Cornell, Natalie F. Cornell, and Harold D. Cornell have allowed a consent order to be entered against them in this proceeding. It is requested that you acknowledge receipt of this petition by notifying undersigned petitioner and first-named respondent, appending to such notification any remarks (appropriate or inappropriate) that you may desire. In witness whereof they have hereunto set their hands.” Both he and Natalie have signed the announcement. This copy was received by her brother, from whose descendant we obtained it. It comes with the original Supreme Court postmarked envelope in which it was sent.

William H. Rehnquist and Natalie Ann Cornell were married on August 29, 1953.

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