SHINGTON (AP) – President Bush is watching his first Supreme Court nominee, Chief Justice John Roberts, take the helm of the high court today while weighing his options for nominating a second justice who also could shape the bench for years to come.
“He’s still working,” White House chief of staff Andy Card said yesterday about the president’s effort to choose a replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. “Still considering lots of options.”
The White House will not disclose who is on Bush’s short list, or hint when an announcement will be made.
Legal experts who are in touch with administration officials say the president is most likely to choose a woman to replace O’Connor, even though many of the often-mentioned candidates are white men.
There continues to be talk in legal circles that he could pick one of three longtime Bush loyalists: White House counsel Harriet Miers, the first women president of the Texas State Bar and Bush’s former personal attorney; Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Bush’s longtime friend, who would be the first Hispanic on the court; and corporate lawyer Larry Thompson, who was the government’s highest ranking black law enforcement official when he was deputy attorney general during Bush’s first term.
Other candidates mentioned most frequently in recent days include conservative federal appeals court judges J. Michael Luttig, Priscilla Owen, Karen Williams, Alice Batchelder and Samuel Alito; Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan; and Maureen Mahoney, a well-respected litigator before the high court.
Yesterday, Bush is going to the Supreme Court for a formal ceremony at which Roberts, who was confirmed by the Senate 78-22 and sworn in at the White House on Thursday, assumes the role of chief justice. Following tradition, Roberts will don his robe for the first time and take the center seat last held by the late former Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
The president declined twice yesterday to say whether he’d made up his mind about a second nominee.
Reporters asked Bush on the South Lawn as he was returning from Camp David. The president, strolling with first lady Laura Bush, just smiled and waved. He was asked again as he left a worship service traditionally held the Sunday before new Supreme Court term begins. This time, Bush ducked in his limousine without a reply.
Bush attended the worship service, known as the Red Mass, with Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer.
The service has been held at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle since 1952 by the John Carroll Society, a group of Washington professionals who are Catholics. The name of the service, which dates back centuries, comes from the red vestments worn by the celebrants. Red, the color of fire, is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, greeted Bush and told the standing-room-only crowd that they were there to pray for Roberts and for guidance in the new term. He noted that the last time he spoke at the cathedral was during Rehnquist’s funeral.
“In the last few days, we have witnessed a period of greater civility in the selection of our chief justice,” McCarrick said, looking ahead to Bush’s next nomination to the high court.