(Keep in mind it is published in the San Francisco Chronicle)
Within the court, the chief justice is just the first among equals -- nine strong-willed, independent jurists -- but the office has powers that can be used to expand its influence.
Most important is the ability to decide who will write the majority opinion after a case is argued and the justices vote. That authority exists when the chief justice is in the majority, and otherwise passes to the senior justice in the majority; some insider accounts of the court have included accusations that Rehnquist's predecessor, Chief Justice Warren Burger, often switched his vote so he could join the majority, commandeer the opinion and narrow its scope.
I'm sure this behavior wasn't limited to Justice Burger.