White House aides narrow high-court search to 2


WASHINGTON -- White House aides have narrowed their search for a new Supreme Court justice to two federal appellate judges from New England, administration officials said yesterday.

The two are Judge Stephen G. Breyer of Boston, who sits on the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Jon O. Newman of Hartford, Conn., of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

White House advisers say they expect President Clinton to decide by next week on a replacement for Justice Byron R. White, who will retire at the end of this term. They said that with his recent political difficulties, Mr. Clinton's overriding concern had become the selection of a person who would be able to breeze through confirmation proceedings. Both judges are well known in legal circles and highly regarded on Capitol Hill.

Officials said White House aides from the counsel's and the personnel office had narrowed the choices to the two New England judges, although they might include a few other names when they present their choice to Mr. Clinton. In recent weeks, the president has rejected some contenders recommended by his aides, and he could do so again.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has been pressing the White House for a decision so it can complete its work on the nomination before September. Committee aides have said it would take at least six weeks to conduct the routine background investigation after the nomination, and the Senate will be in recess for four weeks in August and September.

Officials on Capitol Hill said two senior senators on the Judiciary Committee had recently been asked by the White House for their views about the two judges.

Judge Breyer, 54, and Judge Newman, 61, have remarkably similar backgrounds and career paths. Both have had powerful liberal Democrats and liberal judges as mentors and patrons, and both are widely regarded by their colleagues as intellectuals who gave up political careers to be appointed to the bench. As judges, both have been described as skilled at forging consensus.

Both are also Jewish. Mr. Clinton has made no secret of his desire to appoint the first Jew since Justice Abe Fortas resigned in 1969.

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