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Atlanta-Once again, those who speculate about potential nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court are mentioning the name of Larry D. Thompson. The time might be right for the former Atlanta federal prosecutor, King & Spalding partner, deputy U.S. attorney general and current general counsel for food and beverage giant PepsiCo Inc. Political and legal experts say that Thompson, who impressed Democrats as he sailed to Senate confirmation for his Justice Department post in 2001, could provide President Bush with a solid conservative choice without galvanizing harsh liberal opposition. A painless confirmation could help the president deal with low approval ratings that stem from criticism of the federal response to hurricane victims, high gas prices and continued trouble in Iraq. “Given his relatively weak political situation at the moment, Bush will try to find someone to be confirmed with as little a fight as possible,” said University of Georgia political scientist John A. Maltese, author of The Selling of Supreme Court Nominees. Thompson, 59, would not comment on the possibility of his being tapped for the high court, according to a Pepsi spokesman. A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, Thompson had a reputation in Atlanta for good judgment, careful attention to detail, and an ability to bargain. His nomination to the No. 2 spot at the Justice Department was endorsed by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. To be sure, Thompson’s name is among many federal appeals court judges, other jurists and lawyers who are being discussed since Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s death created a second open seat on the high court since July. Bush’s renomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to replace Rehnquist as chief justice makes a Thompson nomination more likely, some say. Roberts had been chosen initially to fill the seat of retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a longtime swing vote whose seat was targeted as a key for liberal groups interested in preserving abortion rights. Now that Roberts has been shifted to replace Rehnquist, a reliable conservative, Bush would be hard-pressed to nominate an ideological conservative to succeed O’Connor. “I think it certainly bodes well for the possibility for Larry being nominated,” said U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., who supports Thompson. “Larry is not an ultraright-winger by any stretch, and that means the folks on the left shouldn’t have great objection to him.” Conservative support But Thompson, a native of Hannibal, Mo., also needs the support of conservative groups who focus on social issues, such as repealing abortion rights, promoting the display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings and imposing a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The American Center for Law and Justice, the legal advocacy organization founded by conservative Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson, would give strong support to a Thompson nomination. “Larry would be a phenomenal pick for the Supreme Court,” said Jay A. Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice. “I would back him completely and work diligently on his behalf. Larry clearly understands the role of judiciary, which is that judges don’t make social policy; legislators do.” Thompson’s longtime friendship with Justice Clarence Thomas could help assuage the fears of conservatives who don’t want Bush to name a justice in the mold of David H. Souter, whose support of abortion rights and other decisions have bitterly disappointed conservatives. Thompson was a key adviser to Thomas during his 1991 Senate confirmation hearings to the Supreme Court-which could pose a problem with Democrats.

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