June 27, 2005
COUNTDOWN TO THE SUPREME FIGHT: For the last couple of
weeks we've been conducting an informal survey of some of the
top Supreme Court watchers and legal minds in the country to get
their impressions on the impending nomination battle. We asked
three simple questions based on the most likely scenario of a
1: If Chief Justice Rehnquist steps down, will President Bush
nominate someone not currently on the Court to replace him or
will he seek to elevate one of the sitting Associate Justices?
2: Assuming President Bush opts to nominate someone not currently
on the Court, please list the names of the top three candidates
you feel would be most likely to be nominated for Chief Justice
(in order of likelihood).
3: If President Bush decides to nominate a current member of
the Court for Chief Justice, who will he choose? Also, please
list the names of the top three candidates you feel would be
most likely to be nominated to fill the resulting vacancy of
Associate Justice (in order of likelihood).
(70%) of those surveyed thought President Bush would nominate
someone new for the position of Chief Justice as opposed to elevating
a current member of the Court. Among those mentioned as most likely
nominees for position of Chief Justice, J.
Michael Luttig finished at the top of the list just barely
ahead of John C. Roberts.
Michael W. McConnell
came in a very close third and Alberto
Gonzalez and Emilio
Garza tied for a distant fourth place. J.
Harvie Wilkinson finished in fifth place and Samuel
Alito, Jr. brought up the rear.
to consider who Bush might choose to elevate off the current Court,
eighty percent (80%) responded Anthony Scalia and twenty percent
(20%) said Clarence Thomas. The list of those mentioned to fill
the resulting Associate Justice vacancy was almost identical to
that of Chief Justice, suggesting the decision of whether to elevate
a current member of the court to Chief Justice will have little
to no impact on who Bush ends up nominating for the Court.
responses from questions two and three we get the following results:
J. Michael Luttig
2) John C. Roberts
3) Michael W. McConnell
4) Alberto Gonzales
5) Emilio Garza
6) J. Harvie Wilkinson
7) Samuel Alito, Jr.
8) Janice Rogers Brown
to fit well within current conventional wisdom. Luttig and Roberts
are frequently cited as top two prospects under consideration
by the White House: both are young and known to be solidly conservative.
McConnell is also highly respected with good conservative credentials,
though he seems to come across as everyone's favorite second choice.
Now for a
couple of caveats. First, our survey was conducted with the assurance
of complete confidentiality. Suffice it to say that respondents
include distinguished professors and scholars from the top law
schools around the country, Supreme Court reporters from some
of the largest and most well respected media outlets, and some
notable private practice attorneys. Because we were trying to
get the opinions of such an elite group, however, our sample size
is understandably small.
of the surveys were conducted prior to the buzz of a possible
O'Connor retirement instead of Rehnquist. Obviously, the dynamics
of a nomination would change dramatically if this were to occur.
I'll be writing
more on my own thoughts about who Bush will nominate later this
week. In the meantime, if you haven't already bookmarked our RCP
Supreme Court Nomination page, I suggest you do it soon to
stay up to date with all the news and buzz on what is sure to
be one of the biggest political fights of the year. -
T. Bevan 9:05 am Link
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