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Chief Justice William Rehnquist, apparently gaining strength in his battle with thyroid cancer, may be on the Supreme Court bench on March 21, his first public appearance at the Court since last October. When asked if the chief justice will be on the bench for the next two-week argument cycle that begins on Monday, Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said, “He hasn’t decided.” As indefinite as that answer is, it is significantly different from the last several argument sessions, when Arberg would advise reporters that Rehnquist would definitely not be on the bench. Rehnquist was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last October and has been receiving radiation and chemotherapy treatments since then. He has not been on the bench since Oct. 18, though he has come to the Court periodically to work in his office and preside over the Court’s closed conferences. On Jan. 20, Rehnquist made a brief public appearance to swear in President George W. Bush for his second term. But the latest turning point may have come on March 15, when Rehnquist presided over a two-hour meeting of the Judicial Conference, the policy-making body of the judiciary. Judges at the closed-door meeting commented afterward about his stamina and good humor and suggested he was able to speak and move the meeting quickly through its agenda as he did before he became ill. One former Rehnquist law clerk who has been encouraged by the chief justice’s increased strength said it would be “not inconsistent” for Rehnquist to return to the bench, though Rehnquist has not signaled to friends or clerks whether he will for sure. Tony Mauro can be contacted at [email protected].

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