Interesting speculation on the most likely candidates to become Bush’s nominees for U.S. Supreme Court vacancies that most people believe will occur during his 2nd term – anywhere from 1 (Rehnquist almost certainly) to 4 (Stevens, O’Connor and Ginsberg (in descending order of probabiliby) also are speculated as stepping down.
I’m sure there will be all sorts of ridiculous accusations tossed around about whomever is nominated, but here is a speculative, opinion-style article on who comprises the “short list”:
Judging the Shortlist
While All Conservative,
Bush’s Roster of Possible Rehnquist
Successors Show Differences
By JEANNE CUMMINGS and JESS BRAVIN
Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
June 23, 2005; Page A4
The Supreme Court convenes today to hand down some of its remaining decisions on cases heard this term. But at the White House and the Senate, the focus is on the court’s future – and who among a new generation of legal stars of the right might succeed Chief Justice William Rehnquist, should he step down when the court’s annual term ends next week.
The jurists on the rumor-mill shortlist are likely to equal – if not exceed – the conservative views of Chief Justice Rehnquist. But there are some important differences in their r?sum?s and rulings that could determine how they would fare in the Senate, where Democrats have waged a scorched-earth campaign against some of President Bush’s nominees to lower courts – and will likely be even more geared for a fight with the highest legal stakes of all.
If Mr. Bush is willing to take on an ideological battle reminiscent of those over Clarence Thomas and Robert Bork, he may turn to Judge Michael McConnell, whom he placed on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver; Judge McConnell has been the most outspoken on the hot-button issue of abortion, making clear he thinks Roe v. Wade, the 1973 opinion that recognized abortion rights, should be overturned. The White House might expect a less-contentious conflict with another of Mr. Bush’s appellate-court nominees, District of Columbia Circuit Judge John Roberts, whose even demeanor and dearth of controversial rulings could make it tougher for Democrats to characterize him as an extremist candidate.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would be the first Hispanic nominated to the high court and would fit well into Mr. Bush’s long-term political strategy of winning Latinos to the Republican Party. Mr. Gonzales also could appeal to centrists, because he would likely be criticized by conservatives for not being tough enough on abortion and by liberals for being too lax in protecting military prisoners.
Centrist Democrats who can make or break a filibuster attempt by party leaders decline to offer a public assessment of the candidates on the short list, worrying that even tepid acquiescence might kill that person’s chances, by stoking Republican opposition. Liberal activists are, for now at least, gearing up to push Democrats to fight any of the names bandied about. “We take a dim view of all of them,” says Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, a civil-rights group. “These aren’t consensus candidates.”
White House officials recently reinvigorated their screening of potential candidates, but officials decline to speak publicly about the process since no seat on the high court is open.
Mr. Gonzales, 49 years old, long has been considered a favorite of Mr. Bush for a Supreme Court posting. As the president’s first-term White House counsel, Mr. Gonzales, a fellow Texan, was skewered by Democrats for legal views and policy decisions that afforded limited rights to prisoners taken in the war against terrorism.
At the same time, Mr. Gonzales’s stature has slipped among members of the Republicans’ social conservative base, who are ramping up conference calls and mapping out a strategy to nix a Gonzales nomination. Abortion opponents have held him in suspicion after his Texas Supreme Court opinions construed wide exceptions in a state parental-notification law.
Mr. Gonzales also has said he benefited from the very affirmative-action programs that some conservatives pine to dismantle today. “I think Mr. Gonzales is a very good attorney general. I think there are other candidates out there for the Supreme Court that may get broader support,” says Tony Perkins, head of the conservative Family Research Council.
Judge McConnell, 50, of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, came to the bench with an extensive record as a law professor and wide backing from fellow academics. He is best known for arguments that courts have built too high a wall between church and state and for strenuous criticism of the 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion that recognized abortion rights.
In a 1998 opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, Mr. McConnell called the decision’s “reasoning” an “embarrassment to those who take constitutional law seriously.” He has also compared Roe v. Wade to 19th-century high-court rulings upholding slavery and segregation that later were repudiated.
Mr. McConnell, who served as a law clerk to the liberal Justice William Brennan, has on occasion broken from Republican orthodoxy. In a letter to Congressional Republicans, he opposed the impeachment of President Clinton because it lacked bipartisan support and wrote that in Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court should have directed vote-counting to resume in Florida under fairer standards.
Judge Roberts, 50, of the D.C. Circuit, served as a Rehnquist law clerk and as deputy solicitor general under President George H.W. Bush. He has spent most of his career in private practice and his views aren’t as well documented.
During his service for the president’s father, Mr. Roberts did argue in a brief that “we continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled.” In his short tenure on the circuit court, Judge Roberts largely has sided with the administration, voting to prevent American prisoners-of-war from the Persian Gulf War from suing the new U.S.-backed Iraqi government for damages suffered under the Saddam Hussein regime, and holding that records of Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force could remain secret – a view later endorsed by the Supreme Court.
The biggest test of Judge Roberts’s fealty to the administration’s views is now under way. He sits on a three-judge panel considering the government’s appeal of a lower-court ruling that the Geneva Conventions apply to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and that military commissions assembled to try “enemy combatants” for war crimes are illegal.
The Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., is home to two rumored finalists, Reagan-appointee J. Harvie Wilkinson, 61, and J. Michael Luttig, 51, named by the first President Bush. They share core legal beliefs: both have upheld laws restricting access to abortions. Observers discern shades of difference, with the younger Judge Luttig taking a more aggressive conservative position.
In 2003, Judge Wilkinson issued an opinion that all but foreclosed judicial recourse for a U.S. citizen jailed as an “enemy combatant.” Judge Luttig complained that the opinion didn’t go far enough and wrote a dissent suggesting he would give the president nearly unfettered power to imprison such people. The Supreme Court agreed with neither; an 8-1 majority vacated the Wilkinson opinion last year and set the stage for hundreds of prisoners to challenge their detentions.
Another rumored short-lister, Judge Samuel Alito of the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, is considered a quiet and retiring member of one of the less-influential federal appeals courts. Still, his opinions have attracted notice, including a 1991 vote to uphold all restrictions to abortion in a Pennsylvania law, including a requirement that a woman inform her husband that she is seeking an abortion. In other opinions, Judge Alito upheld the placement of religious symbols in holiday displays at City Hall in Jersey City, N.J., and ruled that a high school student from Oceanport, N.J., who suffered depression after being harassed by classmates was entitled to special-education assistance under a federal law protecting disabled students.