Possible candidates

Transition in the Supreme Court

September 05, 2005

Here are eight people who could be considered to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist:


Age: 55

School: Yale Law School

Background: Deputy assistant attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey.

Currently: Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit (appointed 1990).


Alito has earned the conservative stripes that put him into the running for a Supreme Court vacancy. As a member of the circuit that comprises New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, Alito was the lone dissenter in two significant cases: one that overturned a Pennsylvania law requiring that a husband be notified before his wife gets an abortion, and another that did not put a higher burden of proof on people seeking to make sexual discrimination claims.

Alito who was born in Trenton, N.J., has the credentials to be in the hunt for a new justice: an undergraduate degree from Princeton and a law degree from Yale, soon followed by seven years in the Reagan administration.

In 1987, he became the U.S. attorney in New Jersey. President George Bush named him to the 3rd Circuit in 1990. Though he is known for carving out a judicial reputation similar to Justice Antonin Scalia - intellectually admirable but predictably conservative - he is said to lack Scalia's feisty manner.


Age: 57

School: Tulane Law School

Background: Judge on the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana.

Currently: Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit (appointed 2001).


Clement might be the least known of potential nominees. Clement was among the first batch of judges appointed or elevated when President Bush came into office in 2001. Without a contentious hearing, Clement sailed through the Senate on a unanimous vote when she joined the 5th Circuit in November 2001.

Her greatest fame probably came when she was a district judge in Louisiana and presided over the trial of former Louisiana Gov. Edwin W. Edwards, at one point threatening to fine him $1,000 a word if he violated a gag order.

A native of Alabama, Clement went to the University of Alabama and Tulane Law School. She was in private practice in Louisiana before President George Bush named her to the District Court in 1991.

Clement has compiled a solid record on the 5th Circuit. While there are no opinions in her resume that should generate conservative support, neither are there any that seem likely to cause widespread opposition.


Age: 58

School: University of Texas School of Law

Background: Marine captain, Texas trial judge, U.S. district judge in the Western District of Texas.

Currently: Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit (appointed 1991).


Garza came close to the Supreme Court 14 years ago. President George Bush interviewed him after Thurgood Marshall retired but ended up picking Clarence Thomas. At the time, Garza had spent only a few months on the Court of Appeals.

Now there would be no question of experience; Garza has spent more than a decade on the 5th Circuit, compiling a generally conservative record, though his upholding of Supreme Court precedents supporting abortion rights could give pause to social conservatives.

A native of San Antonio, Garza is a former Marine captain who graduated from Notre Dame University and the University of Texas Law School.

He was in private practice when President Ronald Reagan put him on the District Court in 1988. At the time, he was the youngest District Court judge in the country.

Three years later, in confirmation hearings for the appellate seat, Garza denounced legislating from the bench.


Age: 49

School: Harvard Law School

Background: General counsel to then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush, lawyer at Vinson & Elkins, justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, White House counsel to Bush.

Currently: U.S. attorney general


Gonzales brings a compelling personal story and a friendship with President Bush to the table. Born in San Antonio, Gonzales was the second of eight children of migrant workers. He went to public schools, joined the Air Force and graduated from Rice University and then Harvard Law School.

Gonzales joined Bush's gubernatorial administration in 1994, taking several roles before he was appointed to the Texas Supreme Court. In January 2001, he was named counsel to the president. After his re-election, Bush nominated Gonzales to attorney general. Opponents focused on memos he oversaw that justified controversial interrogation tactics for terror suspects.

In his time on the Texas court, Gonzales did not compile a conservative record. When his name surfaced as a potential Supreme Court nominee, critics on the right said he wasn't conservative enough, while others complained that he did not have a strong judicial resume.


Age: 56

School: University of Texas Law School

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