Potential nominees to the Supreme Court of the United States
Speculation on potential Bush administration nominees to the Supreme Court of the United States for some time. First spurred by the deterioration in Chief Justice William Rehnquist's health and the age of several other justices. Then escalated with the retirement of Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Bush finally announced his nomination of John G. Roberts Jr. to her seat on July 19, 2005.
Throughout much of the history of the United States, the Supreme Court of the United States was clearly the least powerful branch of the government, and nominations to that body, although important, were not the source of great political controversy as they are today. The current composition of the Supreme Court has remained unchanged since 1994, the second longest time period without a membership change in U.S. history (the longest having been from 1812-1823).
Furthermore, the current court has been sharply divided on a number of high-profile issues, including abortion, gay rights, affirmative action, the extent of Congressional power under the Commerce Clause, and sovereign immunity. The number of close votes in cases involving these areas suggests that a change of one or two key justices could completely shift the thinking of the Court on such issues.
When asked about the kind of justices he would appoint to the Supreme Court, President George W. Bush responded: "I would pick people that would be strict constructionists. We've got plenty of lawmakers in Washington, D.C. Legislators make law. Judges interpret the Constitution. ... And that's the kind of judge I'm going to put on there."
The Republican-controlled Senate has threatened to invoke what Senator Trent Lott termed the "Nuclear option" to confirm Bush's nominees to the bench over the filibuster by the Democrats - a scenario that Bush would likely prefer to avoid. However, it is unlikely that Democrats will object too stridently if Bush replaces a particularly conservative Justice (such as Rehnquist) with someone who is equally or less conservative. The retirement of Justice O'Connor, who provided a moderate swing-vote on many issues, greatly increases the chances of such a battle.
In May 2005 seven senators of both parties, in a deal to avoid the "nuclear option", agreed to drop the filibuster against three controversial appellate judicial nominees - Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, and William Pryor. Some observers noted that the inclusion of these three extremely conservative nominees made it likely that Democrats could not object if any of the three (or a judge with similar beliefs) were nominated to the Supreme Court.
On June 27, 2005, Nevada Democratic Senator Harry Reid suggested that the next appointment to the Court should come from outside the judiciary. Reid suggested the appointment of out of four Republican Senators - Mel Martinez of Florida, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Mike Crapo of Idaho and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. However, no other source has raised any of these names either as a likely nominee, or even as a qualified candidate.
Names frequently mentioned
Following is a list of individuals that have been mentioned in various news accounts as the Bush administration's most likely potential nominees. Note that Samuel A. Alito was confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice on January 31, 2006.
- Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit
- Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit
- Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit
- Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
United States Senators
- John Cornyn (b. 1952) - Republican senator from Texas - 9, 11
- Orrin Hatch (b. 1934) - Republican senator from Utah - 6
- Jon Kyl (b. 1942) - Republican senator from Arizona - 4, 9
Executive branch officials
- Alberto R. Gonzales (b. 1955) - Attorney General - 3, 8, 9, 14, 15
- Theodore B. Olson (b. 1940) - Former Solicitor General - 3, 4, 9
- Miguel Estrada (b. 1961) - Withdrawn nominee for the D.C. Circuit - 3, 9
- Larry Thompson (b. 1946) - General Counsel for PepsiCo - 3, 9
- Green, Frank (22 November 2004). 4th Circuit's Luttig said potential high-court pick. Times-Dispatch.
- Woellert, Lorraine (22 November 2004) What The New Court Will Look Like. Business Week.
- www.cleveland.com/news Article on "Potential Supreme Court Nominees"
- High Court Prospects Emerging
- CNN discussion
- Possible Bush Nominees
- Odds on Supreme Court Appointments
- The Supreme Court Shortlist: The views of the likely candidates to succeed Rehnquist
- Highest court buzzing
- O'Connor's decision to retire sets off nomination, confirmation battles
- Speculators eye Cornyn for Supreme Court post
- Frist, Reid Talk Potential Court Nominees