Supreme Court Nomination: Will Bush Pick a Woman?


With George W. Bush set to announce his choice for the next United States Supreme Court justice Tuesday at 9 p.m. Eastern, much of the speculation is over whether he’ll pick a woman to replace the retiring Sandra Day O’Connor.

O’Connor was the first woman to serve on the court.

Among the possible candidates are four much discussed women:

EDITH BROWN CLEMENT: A former federal judge in the eastern district of Louisiana, she’s on the Fifth Circuit now. Clement is thought to be a trustworthy conservative, but she has participated in few controversial cases. In one case she limited the claim in an auto accident suit, giving conservatives reason to believe that at the very least she would support Bush in his attack on lawyers and demands for tort reform.

EDITH JONES: Once referred to as “the Federalist Society pinup girl” and the “horsewoman of the right-wing apocalypse,” Jones famously told a defense lawyer that his last-minute appeal in a death sentence case was ruining her cocktail hour.

Jones, appointed by Ronald Reagan to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, has said she doubts that lawsuits result in social justice. She was Bush Sr.’s choice after David Souter, is thought to have business acumen, and is the female candidate with the most experience.

In Jones’s view, the legal system has been corrupted. “The first 100 years of American lawyers,” she told the Harvard Federalist Society, “were trained on Blackstone, who wrote that ‘the law of nature, dictated by God himself, is binding in all counties and at all times; no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all force and all their authority from this original.’ The Framers created a government of limited power with this understanding of the rule of law—that it was dependent on transcendent religious obligation.”

PRISCILLA OWEN: A former judge on the Texas Supreme Court, where she was a colleague of Alberto Gonzales, Owen was fiercely opposed recently by Senate Demo-crats, who finally relented in 2003 and let her nomination to the Fifth Circuit pass. Owen, a Federalist Society member, is strongly opposed to abortion, urging “stricter interpretation” of state law requiring women under 18 to inform their parents before seeking an abortion. According to the National Organization for Women, Enron’s PAC gave Owen $8,600 for her Texas Supreme Court race in 1994. “Two years later,” according to a NOW report, “Owen wrote a majority opinion, reversing a lower-court order, that reduced Enron’s school taxes by $15 million.”

JANICE ROGERS BROWN: Newly appointed to the D.C. Appellate Court, she might seem a long shot, but Brown would be the first black woman on the Supreme Court, a big PR plus for Republican pols who want to wean black voters away from Democrats. They allowed her nomination to the D.C. Court of Appeals to pass without a filibuster. The daughter of an Alabama sharecropper, Brown is a former California Supreme Court judge and is said to have a libertarian bent. Included among her memorable quotes are these gems:

The New Deal marked “the triumph of our own socialist revolution.”

Social Security cannibalizes children.

“Where government moves in,” Brown has declared, “community retreats, civil society disintegrates, and our ability to control our own destiny atrophies. The result is: families under siege; war in the streets; unapologetic expropriation of property; the precipitous decline of the rule of law; the rapid rise of corruption; the loss of civility; and the triumph of deceit. The result is a debased, debauched culture which finds moral depravity entertaining and virtue contemptible.”

Additional reporting: Natalie Wittlin and Halley Bondy