President Bush will announce his nominee to replace Justice O'Connor on the Supreme Court tonight at 9 pm. AP is speculating that it will be Edith Clement of the 5th Circuit:
Bush's spokesman would not identify the president's choice. But there was intense speculation Tuesday that it would be Judge Edith Clement of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
In anticipation of a selection, officials said the White House had contacted selected Republican senators they hoped would serve as advocates for the nominee in media interviews in the initial time following an announcement. Democrats scoured the rulings and writings of leading contenders, including Clement, a 57-year-old jurist who was confirmed on a 99-0 vote by the Senate when she was elevated to the appeals court in 2001...
Known as a conservative and a strict constructionist in legal circles, Clement has eased fears among some abortion-rights advocates. She has stated that the Supreme Court "has clearly held that the right to privacy guaranteed by the Constitution includes the right to have an abortion" and that "the law is settled in that regard."
Tom Goldstein of the SCOTUSblog says his sources also point to Clement as the choice. I know very little about Clement. My assumption all along had been that if a woman was named, it would be Edith Jones, also of the 5th Circuit. Goldstein has listed some of her prominent opinions on the Supreme Court nomination blog. The American Constitution Society has offered a few thoughts on her record (though they are critical of it, I like the fact that she has voted to restrict Congressional authority under the interstate commerce clause). Confirm Them has a post up wherein a lot of their commenters are up in arms about a Clement nomination, claiming that it is a "stinging betrayal to the conservative/constructionist base." Redstate has an analysis of her record as well, in which the author states that many in the know have assured him that Clement will fall squarely in line with Scalia and Thomas (though that means little given how different they are in many ways).
Boy, it pays to be affiliated with Texas [law school]!
A pretty safe choice, politically, I think. What little we can discern from her 5th Circuit opinions indicate that she's a solid conservative, but not so far right that the Democrats can make any credible threat to her confirmation. They'll scream a bit, but in the end, I believe she's an easy confirmation. You can bet that W won't set himself up to be Soutered the way his dad was. Clement is not likely to vote to overturn Roe, which is critical politically, but she may vote to further limit the abortion right. She's friendly to business, and probably would like to narrow the scope of Commerce Clause powers.
A judge's voting record in an intermediate appellate court isn't always a reliable indicator of how he or she might vote as a Supreme Court Justice, but I do not see a significant shift in the balance of Supreme Court votes here. In the final analysis, the Democrats could do much worse, and I suspect they're smart enough to know it.