Chief Justice William Rehnquist Dies After Cancer Battle

The Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, William H. Rehnquist, has died at his suburban Washington home Saturday evening. He was 80 years old and had been battling thyroid cancer.

A statement from the Court said there had been a "precipitous decline" in his health in the past "couple of days."  The Court says Rehnquist was surrounded by his three children when he passed away.  Rehnquist was appointed to the high court by President Richard Nixon in 1971, and was elevated to Chief Justice by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.

His death ends a remarkable 33-year Supreme Court career in which he oversaw the Court's conservative shift.  Some of the most notable points came late in his career -- including him presiding over President Clinton's impeachment trial in 1999 and helping to settle the 2000 presidential election in Bush's favor.

President Bush is now left with the task of filling two vacancies on the Supreme Court.   Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement earlier this summer, while Rehnquist decided to stay on the bench as long as his health would allow.

Rehnquist was 80 years old.