Did Bush Ever Really Consider Jones for Court?

Many of the so-called “short lists” of possible Supreme Court nominees that the White House was reportedly considering this year included U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Edith Jones of Texas. The New York Times even reported that Jones, one of the most respected “strict constructionists” on the federal bench, might well have been one of the five finalists interviewed by President Bush in the process that culminated in the nomination of John Roberts to succeed Sandra Day O’Connor.

As the Times reported July 20, “Republicans close to the administration said they thought the interviews were with three other federal appellate judges: Edith Brown Clement, Edith H. Jones, and J. Michael Luttig.” (The remaining two definitely interviewed by the President were J. Harvie Wilkinson of Virginia, another appellate judge who discussed his interview with the Times, and Roberts himself, who was first nominated to replace O’Connor and then nominated to be chief justice after the death of William Rehnquist in August).

But was Jones, whom conservatives view as one of the very best potential nominees, really interviewed by the President or even actively considered for the Supreme Court?

Two sources close to the Texan—who was reportedly the runner-up for the 1989 court vacancy to which the elder President Bush appointed David Souter—told me that, contrary to the Times report, Jones was not one of those interviewed by this President Bush along with Roberts and Wilkinson. “Edith was not interviewed, period,” said one of the sources. The other, who has frequently been sounded out by the administration on judicial nominations since 2001, told me that not only was Jones not interviewed for either Supreme Court vacancy this year, but “in almost five years of discussions and requests for opinions from the administration about possible Supreme Court nominees, the name of Edith Jones has never come up. Not once.”

Both sources, who requested anonymity, agreed that since Jones was not interviewed or considered, she could not have been one of these candidates whom Karl Rove told James Dobson had taken their names out of consideration for the nomination that went to White House Counsel Harriet Miers. I tried to talk with Jones, but her spokesman said: “Judge Jones does not grant interviews.”

When I asked White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan about the New York Times story and whether Jones was actually interviewed or considered for the Supreme Court, he told me: “I’m not going to discuss any individuals who may or may not have been considered for the court.”