Morrison v. Olson, 1988
In 1988, Rehnquist wrote the majority opinion upholding the Independent Counsel Act, which permitted the U.S. attorney general to appoint independent counsels to investigate and prosecute high government officials. This was a surprising rebuff to the Reagan administration, which had previously claimed exclusive executive power over prosecutions.
Justice Brennan noted that Morrison was "one of the most important cases in all of constitutional jurisprudence, because of what it says about separation of powers. None of the three branches can ever again claim to be the absolute arbiter of anything."
Hustler v. Falwell, 1988
In 1983, Hustler magazine published a sexually explicit satire of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who sued to recover damages for libel, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Falwell won a jury verdict of $150,000 in damages.
In an 8-0 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hustler. Rehnquist wrote the opinion, which found that under the First Amendment, an obvious satire or parody of a public figure remains protected speech, even if it causes emotional distress to the person in question.
"Were we to hold otherwise, there can be little doubt that political cartoonists and satirists would be subjected to damages awards without any showing that their work falsely defamed its subject," Rehnquist wrote.
Bush v. Gore, 2000
On Dec. 12, 2000, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that there was insufficient time to revamp Florida's election standards, thereby ending the vote recount in the 2000 presidential election -- which resulted in President Bush's first term in office.
The five justices in the majority were divided in their reasoning. Rehnquist, along with Scalia and Thomas, argued that the recount had bypassed state legislature by effectively writing new election law, and should therefore be abandoned.
The four dissenters argued that the Florida Supreme Court's judgment should be respected.
This vote was perhaps one of the most controversial in recent history, prompting wide-ranging accusations that the justices had simply voted along party lines. The opinions themselves varied dramatically, leaving the decision open to further criticism.