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Washington�While election anxiety ran throughout most of the country last week, a different kind of anxiety could be felt in the majestic halls of the Supreme Court. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist’s inability to return to the bench following a tracheotomy and treatment for thyroid cancer made acutely real the possibility of a high court vacancy, about which many court watchers had speculated endlessly for the last two years. However, it is clear now that if a vacancy occurs during the next four years, President Bush will be filling it. Speculation now centers on his possible “short list” of potential nominees. Although this president may get the opportunity to “remake” the Supreme Court during his presidency if more than one vacancy opens, a replacement for the chief justice, should he retire, would not shift the court in any dramatic direction. Bush probably would appoint someone similar in philosophy to Rehnquist. The so-called short list can be broken into two groups: current federal judges and current or former Bush lawyers. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most conservative circuit benches in the country, has two members likely to appear on any Bush list: judges J. Harvie Wilkinson, 60, and J. Michael Luttig, 50. Both men are former Supreme Court clerks, Wilkinson to Lewis Powell Jr. and Luttig to Warren Burger. Luttig, considered more conservative than Wilkinson, also clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia when he was a circuit judge. Of similar temperament and style to Scalia, Luttig has written decisions upholding a Virginia law banning so-called partial birth abortions and striking down a key provision of the federal Violence Against Women Act on commerce clause grounds. In the 5th Circuit, Judge Emilio Garza, 57, is often mentioned as potentially the first Hispanic justice. But like Luttig, Garza may draw fire from women’s groups and civil liberties organizations because of his criticism of Roe v. Wade and his belief that abortion regulation is a state issue. Larry Thompson, former U.S. attorney and deputy attorney general under John Ashcroft, draws high marks for his skills from left and right. Thompson, 58, supervised the department’s Enron investigation and was at the forefront of the hunt for terrorists. He is currently general counsel at PepsiCo Inc., and also has been mentioned as a possible attorney general nominee if Ashcroft leaves. A nod to Olson? Former Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, 64, back at his firm, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, successfully argued Bush’s case in the Bush v. Gore battle in the Supreme Court, and, not as successfully, Bush’s position in the terrorism-related cases before the high court last term. White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, 49, was Bush’s former secretary of state when Bush was governor. Then-Governor Bush appointed Gonzales to the Texas Supreme Court and subsequently brought him to Washington. Gonzales, once considered a moderate conservative, has drawn criticism for his role in the administration’s legal stance on the Geneva Conventions’ applicability to detainees in the war on terror.

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