Chief justice provides little info on health problem

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Supreme Court justices guard their medical privacy fiercely, and Chief Justice Roberts has proved no exception. All that he authorized the court’s public information apparatus to disclose were the bare facts of the incident on Monday and his release from a Rockport, Me., hospital on Tuesday “to resume his vacation,” as Kathleen Arberg, the court spokeswoman, put it. No further information would be forthcoming, Ms. Arberg said.

The chief justice was following the model of his former boss and mentor, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who once described reporters as vultures for their interest in his treatment for dependency on a prescription pain reliever.

In the 11 months between his diagnosis of thyroid cancer and his death in September 2005, Chief Justice Rehnquist never confirmed that he had the anaplastic form of the disease, which, unlike the more common forms, is invariably fatal and usually kills within a year.

“That’s for me to know and you to find out,” he said when asked about his retirement plans some six weeks before his death.

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