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Chief Justice Rehnquist

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist has been release after spending two nights in the hospital for a fever.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Ailing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist was discharged Thursday after two nights in the hospital for treatment of a fever.

The 80-year-old Rehnquist, who has thyroid cancer, had been taken by ambulance to Virginia Hospital Center on Tuesday for tests and observation. Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said he was released and at home around midday Thursday.

The health setback added new intrigue to the rampant guessing game about his retirement prospects. Rehnquist has been on the Supreme Court 33 years.

Rehnquist's departure from the hospital was filmed by news crews. Dozens of people had staked out his home and the hospital.

"This hospitalization has to shake his faith a little bit," said Stephen Wermiel, an American University law professor who specializes in the Supreme Court.

Rehnquist was first hospitalized in October, when he underwent a tracheotomy. He has said very little publicly about his prognosis and nothing about his future at the court. He's received chemotherapy and radiation.

Speculation about his future on the court picked up substantially when Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor earlier this month announced her retirement. Rehnquist had been widely believed the most likely justice to step down.