With Senate confirmation of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. as chief justice virtually assured, the struggle for the Supreme Court returns to replacing retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. The belief in legal and political circles is that President Bush will name a conservative woman, and the front-runner is federal Appellate Judge Priscilla Owen (5th Circuit, Austin, Texas).
According to White House sources, Bush met secretly with Owen last week. While not decisive evidence, this was no mere get-acquainted session beginning a long exploration. He knows and admires his fellow Texas Republican. The countervailing political pressure on Bush is to name a Hispanic American, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is a Texas Republican the president knows and likes even better than he does Owen. But signals last week he might name Gonzales probably should not be taken seriously.
Novak notes that Owen's four months on the appeals court is more than what David Souter had when he was nominated by the first Bush -- and that she has over a decade of experience on the Texas Supreme Court. A negative is that she just survived a very close confirmation vote, having been filibustered for four years by Senate Democrats, though her recent confirmation could be a positive given the deal to end the filibuster. This analysis from the Supreme Court Nomination Blog in July lays out some interesting arguments in favor of her nomination.