SCOTUS openings

This isn't one those "blawgs" (legal blogs) but that doesn't mean I can't do my own speculating!

Fox News says Rehnquist will probably retire.

Certainly, with his health issues and the rampant rumors floating around, it is probably likely. As they say, if there is smoke there is probably fire.

Bush 43 will have two nominations to make. Will he go for two jurists with solid center-right credentials?

Given how Bush stuck it out with his Appeals Court nominees, I would think so. Also since that "Gang of 14" deal might fray apart, the fight over the SCOTUS nominees will bring up the whole filibuster thing again. Certainly, from the noises coming out of the Democrat camp, a filibuster is likely. In which case, Bush might as well swing for the fences if the battle is going to be that contested anyway.

I would think the only way a filibuster is avoided is if some of the Democrat members of the "Gang of 14" were to quietly float the names of people they wouldn't filibuster.

Hugh Hewitt on his radio show seems to like Garza and Luttig.

CNN has a tab for potential nominees.

Garza's description on CNN.com:

Many court watchers believe Bush is likely to nominate a Hispanic as the next Supreme Court justice. If Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is not nominated, then Garza could be the pick. Garza is a solid conservative known to strongly oppose Roe v. Wade. Born in 1947 and a former U.S. Marine captain, he was appointed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by the president's father in 1991. He also was a finalist for the Supreme Court seat that went to Clarence Thomas.

Luttig's description on CNN.com:

A longtime favorite in the neo-conservative movement, Luttig is considered one of the strongest voices on the conservative 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Before his 1991 nomination, Luttig headed the National Advisory Committee for Lawyers, and served in the Reagan and the first Bush administrations. Luttig has ties to three of the justices. He clerked for Antonin Scalia when Scalia was an appellate judge, and he advised Clarence Thomas and David Souter during their confirmation hearings. Years later, those justices recused themselves from a highly controversial case with personal ties. Luttig's father, John, was murdered in 1994 during a botched carjacking outside his Texas home. The then-17-year-old killer Napoleon Beazley was executed in May 2002, after the remaining justices refused to intervene. The case divided the court and raised anew concerns over executing people under 18 years at the time of their crimes. Luttig is also known for his close ties to many leading conservatives and his desire for privacy. His only recent off-the-bench remarks came at the eulogy for Barbara Olson, the wife of former Solicitor General Theodore Olson who was killed in the September 11, 2001, attacks. Another rare public appearance was a 1995 eulogy for his mentor and former boss, Chief Justice Warren Burger. Luttig was born in 1954.

Hewitt has mentioned that if Bush does opt to fill a spot with a woman, Jones is probably at the top of the list.

Jones description on CNN.com:

If there is political pressure to appoint another woman to fill O'Connor's seat, Jones is a possible candidate. She is considered a staunch conservative, especially on death penalty appeals. Born in 1949, she was 36 years old when President Reagan nominated her to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1985. She also was a finalist in 1990 and 1991 for Supreme Court seats that eventually went to David Souter and Clarence Thomas, respectively. She has spoken out against what she calls a rapid decline in legal ethics. "The integrity of law, its religious roots, its transcendent quality are disappearing," she said in a February 28, 2003, speech at Harvard University.

After reading the bios on CNN.com, I'd say Garza and Jones are solid choices as they have gone through some vettting as candidates for previous SCOTUS vacancies. Also, the symbolic appeals of their backgrounds are hard to deny.

UPDATE: Here is another quick summary of the resumes of potential nominees from Real Clear Politics.

Alito looks like another possibility as he has been confirmed before and the resume looks good.

Brown would be an interesting choice in terms of racial and gender politics but given how tough her Appeals Court nomination was I'm not sure the Bushies want that.

Estrada looks like a non-starter as he didn't even get confirmed and is so young at 44.

Gonzales might be the easier pick between Gonzales and Garza if Bush wants to go with the "Hispanic" card.

McConnell with a law professor background in addition to Appeals Court experience is an option. One wonders what kind of paper trail he has?

Roberts is on the DC Appeals Court which is historically kind of the farm club for SCOTUS. He previous easy confirmations might make him an attractive choice if the Bush team decides they don't want a fight over nominations.

Wilkinson is older but with solid and lengthy Appeals Court experience would be on the list but I'm guessing won't get tapped unless some other nominee flames out and Bush has to trot out someone confirmable rather quickly.

Thus, I stick with my earlier prediction that Garza and Jones are the top options if they want a fight. With Gonzales and Roberts as definite possibilities if the Bush team opt out of a huge fight.

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