Clinton may name first female attorney general

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- President-elect Bill Clinton is moving to name the first woman to serve as attorney general, and transition aides in Washington and Arkansas said yesterday that he was considering four candidates.

The finalists, three judges and a Washington lawyer active in public-interest causes, are emblematic of the path-breaking women who entered law schools in small numbers in the 1950s and 1960s and then rose to the top of their profession.


The candidates are:

* Judge Patricia M. Wald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.


* Judge Amalya L. Kearse of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in New York City.

* Judge Judith S. Kaye of the New York state Court of Appeals.

* Brooksley E. Born, a partner at the Washington firm of Arnold & Porter.

The decision to focus on female candidates followed a meeting in Washington last week in which top Clinton aides, including transition chairman Vernon E. Jordan, conferred with the leaders of about a half-dozen women's rights groups.

According to those at the meeting, the representatives from the groups called on Mr. Clinton to select a woman for one of what is sometimes referred to as the "big four" Cabinet posts: Treasury, State, Defense and Justice.

One transition official said the meeting was not confrontational because the Clinton team was receptive to the idea that a woman be chosen for one of those four positions. The official said the Justice Department provided the greatest opportunity to fulfill that notion because of the large pool of accomplished female lawyers compared to the other fields.

All four candidates have been interviewed by top transition officials, two of them last weekend in Little Rock, Ark.

Judge Wald, 64, is, by some accounts, the slight favorite of transition officials. She was appointed to the bench by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 after serving as assistant attorney general for legislative affairs.


Judge Kearse, 55, also named to the bench by President Carter, is the first woman and the second black lawyer to serve on the second circuit, the first being Thurgood Marshall. She is a native of Vauxhall, N.J.

Judge Kaye, 54, has been thought of as a potential Supreme Court nominee. She is also a candidate to become chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, succeeding Judge Sol Wachtler, who resigned last month after being arrested on charges of extortion.

The fourth candidate, Ms. Born, 52, has combined an active private practice with interest in children's issues, legal services and bar association activities.

She graduated at the top of her class at the Stanford University Law School and was the first woman to head the Stanford Law Review.