Speculation On Court Pick Heats Up
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Speculation On Court Pick Heats Up

CBS News | July 19, 2005

President Bush has decided on his nominee to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court and will reveal it Tuesday night in a prime time address.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the Bush administration was asking television outlets to broadcast the speech live at 9 p.m. EDT. Mr. Bush's spokesman would not identify the president's choice, but there was intense speculation that it would be Judge Edith Brown Clement of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Watch a live Webcast of President Bush's Supreme Court announcement tonight at 9 p.m. EDT.

Earlier, Mr. Bush refused to tip his hand on whom he will name or when he will do it.

"I guess the best way to say it is, I'll let you know when I'm ready to tell you who it is," the president said at a press conference with Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

"I'm comfortable with where we are in the process," Mr. Bush said. He said he has considered a variety of people from different walks of life, some of whom he knew before and some he had never met.

No one claimed to have been told the name by Mr. Bush, but Republican strategists and others focused on Clement, a 57-year-old jurist who was confirmed on a 99-0 vote by the Senate when she was elevated to the appeals court in 2001.

Known as a conservative and a strict constructionist in legal circles, Clement also has eased fears among abortion-rights advocates. She has stated that the Supreme Court "has clearly held that the right to privacy guaranteed by the Constitution includes the right to have an abortion" and that "the law is settled in that regard."

At Clement's office in New Orleans, a man who identified himself as a law clerk said the judge was not available. "That's what I've been instructed to say," he told a caller who asked if she were in Washington.

CBS News Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts says this may be the first time a president has announced a Supreme Court nominee in prime time and requested network television coverage for such an announcement.

"That's usually reserved for speeches dealing with national security or some sort of national crisis," says Roberts. "While President Bush has made some political speeches asking for time during the prime-time segment, this is something I don’t think has ever happened before." Roberts says the timing of the announcement lends credence to the speculation that the nominee will be a woman.

"At this point all we can do is read the tea leaves. And the fact that the White House wants to do this in prime time would be suggestive of the idea that, indeed, President Bush is going to nominate a woman," Roberts says. "If the White House asked for prime time, in the middle of everybody's television viewing evening, and rolled out a man, they might just open themselves up to some criticism. So the betting is that it's going to be a woman."

Along with Clement, other female candidates thought to be under serious consideration were Edith Hollan Jones, who also serves on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, but is considered more controversial than Clement; and Priscilla Owen, who was just confirmed for an appeals court seat after a long delay in the Senate.

Other names that have been mentioned are conservative federal appellate court judges Samuel Alito, J. Michael Luttig, Michael McConnell, John Roberts Jr., Emilio Garza and J. Harvie Wilkinson III; and former deputy attorney general Larry Thompson.

Still other names thought to be under consideration were: Maura Corrigan, a judge on the Michigan Supreme Court; Cecilia M. Altonaga, a U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of Florida; Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law School professor; Karen Williams from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.; and Janice Rogers Brown, recently confirmed by the Senate for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Mr. Bush has said he wants his nominee confirmed by the Senate by October, when the court reconvenes.

There's a political component to the timing of the announcement as well, since it could turn the spotlight in Washington away from news about Mr. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, and the ongoing federal probe into who leaked the name of a CIA officer.

Senate Republican leaders said they had not been given the name by the White House. "Presidents like to be the first to announce presidential appointments," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the No. 2 Republican leader.

White House officials have refused to discuss the names of top prospects being considered as a replacement for the departing O'Connor, who was the first woman appointed to the court.


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