White House officials have assured select conservative leaders that they will not nominate Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to the Supreme Court to replace retiring Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, according to a conservative familiar with the behind-the-scenes discussions.
The message has filtered out to conservative activists that Gonzales, whom many activists believe would be too liberal on abortion and racial preference issues, is no longer a threat to their cause. That could portend a fierce battle in the Senate in September, as Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) has said Gonzales would be a qualified nominee, suggesting that his selection could have achieved bipartisan consensus.
Senior administration officials have told select conservative leaders that President Bush is likely to nominate either Edith Jones or Edith Clement, members of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the conservative source said.
It is also possible that would nominate Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan or former Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, whom the Senate recently confirmed to the 5th Circuit.
Jones and Clement have been mentioned as possible nominees in recent news articles, along with federal appeals-court Judges Michael Luttig, John Roberts Jr. and Michael McConnell and Harvie Wilkinson. But the chances of the four men have slimmed significantly since Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s said late last week that he would not retire soon. It is viewed as politically difficult to replace O’Connor with a conservative white man.