2nd possible nominee says no to high court

April 09, 1993|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton hasn't offered anyone a seat on the Supreme Court, but a second potential nominee said no yesterday anyway.

This time, the dropout was New York's highest-ranking state judge, Judith S. Kaye, 54, who was considered a strong prospect for the court vacancy that will occur with Justice Byron R. White's retirement early this summer.

Judge Kaye's withdrawal followed by a day the same gesture by another New Yorker, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, who did not seem to be as definite a contender as Judge Kaye, although some members of the White House staff reportedly had favored him.

Neither of this week's withdrawals seemed likely to slow the selection process, since White House aides and outside advisers have made it clear that the process has barely begun anyway.

But the highly unusual declarations of noninterest in one of the most powerful and prestigious jobs a president can offer illustrates how the court sweepstakes is becoming a public spectacle. Although individuals have turned down Supreme Court justiceships actually offered by a president, there may be no precedent for someone's withdrawing without having received at least an implied offer.

Judge Kaye, who recently was elevated to the chief judgeship of New York's Court of Appeals, the state's supreme court, was "an extremely viable candidate" for Justice White's seat, according to a lobbyist for an activist group who has kept in close touch with White House aides working on the nomination process. That source spoke on condition of anonymity.

President Clinton is considered likely to give women strong consideration in drawing up a list for the court vacancy, and Judge Kaye's name has figured prominently in speculation.

Mr. Cuomo had mentioned Judge Kaye as a potential justice when he wrote to the president this week to withdraw. That may have prompted Judge Kaye to act to end the already rampant speculation about her.

She has been in her new job as chief judge less than a month. On the state's supreme court for a decade, she moved up to the center chair after the scandal-plagued departure of Chief Judge Sol Wachtler.

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