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Bush to deliberate ‘the next few weeks’ about naming his candidate for U.S. Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (BP)–It may be weeks instead of days before President Bush announces his nomination to replace Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, according to an abridged interview published July 5 in USA Today.

The president told the newspaper he would “begin to hone in on a handful of candidates over the course of the next few weeks” before submitting his nomination to the Senate. “And then there will be a period of time in which I myself will sit down with the prospective nominees,” Bush said. The president said he was “very serious” about having his nominee confirmed before the high court begins its next term Oct. 3.

O’Connor announced her retirement July 1 after 24 years on the court. The White House indicated on that date the president would not name a nominee before he returned from Europe July 8, the Associated Press reported. Bush’s comments to USA Today would seem to indicate there will be no nomination announcement immediately after he returns to the White House.

The news of O’Connor’s departure set off responses — some heated and some moderate in rhetoric — and increased activities by both conservative and liberal organizations. O’Connor, 75, the first female justice, frequently has been a swing vote on the court, often siding with liberals on such issues as abortion and public religious expression. The nomination and confirmation of a conservative to the court could alter the decisions on some contentious subjects, such as partial birth abortion.

In the interview with USA Today, Bush declined to say whether he wanted to push the court in a more conservative direction or to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion. He does “not believe in a litmus test,” the president said. As he has indicated previously, he plans “to nominate a person with great integrity and intellect and experience who will faithfully interpret the Constitution,” Bush said.

The president said he is “interested in diversity on the court” but also in making certain his selection, “regardless of who he or she is and regardless of the background of that person, is a person of great integrity, somebody who can do the job.”

The president said he hopes advocacy organizations “will help tone down the heated rhetoric and focus on the nominee’s credentials and philosophy.”

Bush defended one of the potential nominees, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Among those mentioned as possible selections to replace O’Connor, Gonzales has received the least amount of support from social conservatives and may face outright opposition from some. As a member of the Texas Supreme Court, Gonzales voted with the majority in a decision providing what pro-lifers considered a liberal interpretation of a law requiring parental notification for a minor’s abortion.

“Al Gonzales is a great friend of mine,” the president said. “I’m the kind of person, when a friend gets attacked, I don’t like it.”

Other possible Bush nominees suggested by various sources are:

— Samuel Alito of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

— Edith Brown Clement of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

— Emilio Garza, also of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

— Edith Hollan Jones, also of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

— Michael Luttig of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

— Michael McConnell of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

— John Roberts of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown also have been mentioned as potential nominees. The Senate recently confirmed Owen and Brown to the Fifth and D.C. circuits, respectively, after they were filibustered at length by Democrats.

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