Letter Accepting the Resignation of Warren E. Burger as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court

June 17, 1986

Dear Mr. Chief Justice:

It is with great regret that I today accept your retirement as Chief Justice of the United States, effective at the conclusion of the Court's current Term. Your service on the Court, extending over 17 years, has set a high standard for your successors, and you leave with the gratitude of the Nation you served so well.

In our discussions over the past year, you have emphasized to me the importance you attach to the work of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, of which you serve as Chairman. I respect your desire to retire from the Court in order to devote your full energies to the important objectives of the Commission. But I must express regret that your extraordinary gifts will no longer be employed on our highest Court.

Your career exemplifies the highest traditions of this great Nation, having served your country in the Department of Justice, as a Judge of a United States Court of Appeals, and as Chief Justice of the United States. I can only wish you good luck and Godspeed in the important endeavor on which you are now embarked.

With warmest wishes,


Ronald Reagan

[The Honorable Warren E. Burger, The Chief Justice of the United States, Washington, D.C. 20543]

My dear Mr. President:

Last year when you asked me to be Chairman of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution I agreed to undertake at least to try to get the program under way. My old friend John Warner who was similarly ``drafted'' to chair the 1976 Commission later cautioned me that the chairmanship of such a project was a full time enterprise.

I have discovered that John was right. Between my purely judicial work and my administrative duties, I already had two ``full time jobs.''

I know we share the view that the story of our great constitutional system must be recalled to the American people -- and indeed told to people everywhere who seek freedom. To tell that story as it should be told is an enormous and challenging task. I fear, however, it is now too late to enlist a new full time Chairman. Accordingly, I have resolved to request that I be relieved as Chief Justice of the United States effective July 10, 1986, or as soon thereafter as my successor is qualified, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 371(b).

It has been an honor and privilege to hold this great office for seventeen years during a stirring period in the history of the Republic and of the Court. I am grateful that our system is such that this opportunity could come to me. So long as I am able, I expect, as I told the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 6, 1969, to continue to devote every energy to help make our system of justice work better.

Sincerely and respectfully,

Warren E. Burger

[The President, The White House, Washington, D.C.]