Numerous websites are reporting that Chief Justice Rehnquist has informed the White House of his intent to retire at the end of this term. The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the White House has been busy interviewing potential nominees and quotes anonymous White House sources on the short list:
The White House has focused on several nominees with established conservative records: Judges J. Michael Luttig and J. Harvie Wilkinson of the Richmond, Va.-based 4th U.S. Court of Appeals, and Judge Samuel Alito of the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Court of Appeals.
The official said the administration also has considered judges Bush has nominated to the federal appeals courts, including John Roberts of the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C.; Michael McConnell, of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Court of Appeals; and William Pryor, of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Court of Appeals.
Of those nominees, Luttig, Alito and Roberts have emerged as leading contenders, sources close to the White House said. But Wilkinson remains very much in consideration, the administration official said.
The article also notes that AG Alberto Gonzales is also still a possible nominee, but he is being “held off to the side” because, while President Bush would like to name a Hispanic to the court and is personally close to Gonzales, they know his nomination would anger the religious right and be viewed as too moderate to replace Rehnquist.