Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s surprise retirement leaves President Bush in a bind, says Legal Times: Can he replace the first woman on the Supreme Court with a white male? Before O’Connor’s announcement, most of the smart money was on middle-aged white judges such as John Roberts of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and J. Michael Luttig of the 4th Circuit. That was to replace Chief Justice William Rehnquist. “Do you replace O’Connor with a woman, or with a Hispanic, so you have a new first?” says American University law professor Stephen Wermiel. “The question is who are you trying to appease? And are you looking for a fight — or looking to avoid a fight?”
Mickey Ibarra, a former Clinton administration official who now has his own lobby shop, says, “Hispanics are becoming the largest minority, and whether it’s for a replacement of Rehnquist or O’Connor, consideration of a Hispanic seems like it has to be a must.” The leading Hispanic candidate, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, is viewed as flatly unacceptable by the hard line conservative and evangelical groups that take credit for Bush’s presidential re-election victory. That may make someone like Judge Emilio Garza of the 5th Circuit a more likely candidate. If the White House seeks a black, it could turn to former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, now general counsel of Pepsico.