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The National Law Journal reports that in the dark days after he announced that he was suffering from thyroid cancer in late October 2004, Chief Justice William Rehnquist's in-box filled up with anxious notes from his colleagues.

"Top priority at Court," wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is "to have our Chief back with us, steadily on course toward a cancer-free future."

Justice David Souter reported to the chief that, after an overly long discussion among the justices of a minor case in Rehnquist's absence, "I could hear Tony [Kennedy] muttering under his breath, 'Five minutes on [the case]. The chief better get back here fast.'" Souter added, "That's certainly the sense of the Court as we all pull for you in your ordeal."

From Justice Stephen Breyer also came a handwritten note: "You are missing nothing here! The cases are routine; our lunchtime discussions need your input -- particularly on recent films." Breyer did joke that Rehnquist had missed a chance to win some money from him in the justices' apparently low-stakes wagering over the presidential election. "I paid $1 to CT [Clarence Thomas]," Breyer said. It's a safe bet that Breyer had put his money on John Kerry and Thomas on George W.Bush.



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