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WASHINGTON — U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, ill with thyroid cancer, was hospitalized Tuesday night with a fever and was kept overnight for observation and tests on Wednesday. Rehnquist was taken by ambulance late Tuesday to Arlington Hospital, near his Virginia residence, a source with knowledge of the chief justice’s condition said. The source sought to downplay the development by portraying it as a routine precaution, but the announcement was sure to revive speculation that the chief justice, who has served on the high court for 33 years, might step down soon. Rumors were rampant late last month that the 80-year-old Rehnquist, who has been battling cancer since last October, would retire when the court term ended. But that day came and went, and the prospect of Rehnquist leaving was supplanted by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s surprise retirement announcement July 1. The guessing game about Rehnquist resumed last week, but petered out by Tuesday of this week as Rehnquist appeared to be carrying on and reporting to work as usual. “A lot of us felt there was a good chance he would leave last week, but once we got to this week the feeling was that we were back to the status quo,” said one former Rehnquist clerk who asked not to be named. Ordinarily by now, Rehnquist would be in Vermont where he has a summer home. But he has remained in the Washington, D.C., area, possibly to be near his doctors. It is not uncommon for patients who have undergone chemotherapy, as Rehnquist has, to be more susceptible to infections than the general population. Tony Mauro is the U.S. Supreme Court correspondent for Legal Times, a Recorder affiliate based in Washington, D.C.

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