A Short List for the High Court


By Eamon Javers and Richard S. Dunham White House sources say President Bush will move very quickly to name someone as a replacement for Harriet Miers as a Supreme Court nominee. The following judges are on the White House short list or are being aggressively pushed by constituent groups (see "A Long Winter for the GOP"). Here are the names, with pros and cons, for an embattled Administration struggling to make a quick but politically crucial decision.

Karen Williams: She's the Right's dream choice -- a staunch conservative with a track record. As a judge on the Richmond (Va.)-based 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, the 54-year-old former trial lawyer wrote an opinion in 1999 that would have severely limited the rights of criminal suspects. One risk: Her selection could trigger Democrats to declare all-out war against her nomination in the Senate and stage a filibuster.

Priscilla Owen: This 5th Circuit judge is personally close to both President Bush and White House political guru Karl Rove, and she's a well-known foe of abortion. But Democrats delayed her Appeals Court confirmation for years, and they would be loath to allow the 50-year-old to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. After the Miers fiasco, the fact that she's also a well-connected Texan could be a drawback.

J. Michael Luttig: One of the few white males on the short list, the 51-year-old is a favorite of conservative legal scholars. Like Chief Justice John Roberts, this 4th Circuit judge is considered brilliant and persuasive. Liberal interest groups are geared up with reams of opinions to show why they feel he's too far out of the legal mainstream -- but with his intellect and temperament, it could be difficult to derail him.

Larry D. Thompson: The former head of the Justice Dept.'s criminal division left Washington to join the corporate world as chief counsel of PepsiCo (PEP). A law-and-order conservative, he's highly regarded by Republicans and Democrats alike on Capitol Hill. But the 59-year-old African American has a limited record on social issues, which gives pause to conservative activists who feel they know little about him.

Samuel A. Alito: Nicknamed "Scalito" because of his brash manner and philosophical kinship to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, this 55-year-old- member of the 3rd Circuit is a favorite of conservative grassroots groups. But with a 15-year track record on the court, Democrats have plenty of material with which they would try to paint him as an extremist.

Edith Brown Clement: Ironically, it was White House Counsel Harriet Miers who called Clement this summer to let her know that she had been the runner-up to Roberts for the first Supreme Court opening. Now, Clement is suddenly back in the running. A New Orleans-based appellate judge, the 57-year-old is solidly conservative, but some hardliners fear she isn't sufficiently outspoken on abortion and gay rights. She could rise to the top if Bush wants to go with a woman who's also a mainstream conservative. But if Bush decides he has to play to his base, she'll fall off the short list.

Alberto Gonzales: Bush's Attorney General and close personal friend is anathema to the movement conservatives who consider him soft on abortion because of an opinion he wrote while serving on the Texas Supreme Court. They also fear the 50-year-old will veer left on affirmative action and other hot-button issues. His only chance to be chosen is if Bush, angry with conservatives for the way they treated Miers, decides to go with a history-making pick of the first Hispanic to serve on the high court.

Emilio Garza: If Bush decides he wants to make history with a Latino appointment and doesn't want to alienate his base, the logical choice is this 58-year-old 5th Circuit judge. Garza has consistently ruled that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, but the downside is that he's not the first choice of conservatives, who worry he doesn't have the judicial heft of Luttig or Alito.

Edith H. Jones: A long shot, this 5th Circuit judge can't be dismissed because of her close ties to Rove. Jones, now 55, was on the short list for the Supreme Court seat eventually filled by David Souter -- but the first President Bush decided that her hard-line conservatism may have been too risky. That's exactly what might appeal to this President Bush.

Javers is a correspondent in BusinessWeek's Washington bureau, and Dunham is the magazine's Washington Outlook editor


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