Regarding the June 30 news story "Only Vacancy Is in Supreme Court News," the next significant date for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and other members of the Supreme Court, barring another retirement, incapacitating disability or death in the interim, is Sept. 17. On that date, the present court will have the longest service without a change in membership of any Supreme Court lineup in history.

Justice Joseph Story was sworn in on Feb. 3, 1812, and Justice Brockholst Livingston died while serving on March 18, 1823. That's a span of 4,062 days (including the days Story was sworn in and Livingston died). On the current court, Justice Stephen G. Breyer was sworn in on Aug. 3, 1994. Sept. 17 will mark 4,063 days since that ceremony. As the author of several books on the Supreme Court's history, Chief Justice Rehnquist (and possibly other members of the court) may be aware of this milestone.

With his 33 years on the court after being sworn in on Jan. 7, 1972, the chief justice must also be aware that he is still several years away from catching up to the longest-serving member of the Supreme Court, Justice William O. Douglas, a fact that may stick in his craw given their very different perspectives. Douglas was sworn in on April 17, 1939, and left the court on Nov. 12, 1975, a period of about 361/2 years.


McMinnville, Ore.