SAMUEL ALITO
Age: 55
School: Yale Law School
Background:: Deputy assistant attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey.
Currently: Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit (appointed 1990).

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Alito has earned the conservative stripes that put him into the running for a Supreme Court vacancy.

As a member of the circuit that comprises New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, Alito was the lone dissenter in two significant cases: one that overturned a Pennsylvania law requiring that a husband be notified before his wife gets an abortion, and another that did not put a higher burden of proof on people seeking to make sexual discrimination claims.

Alito who was born in Trenton, N.J., has the credentials to be in the hunt for a new justice: an undergraduate degree from Princeton and a law degree from Yale, soon followed by seven years in the Reagan administration.

In 1987, he became the U.S. attorney in New Jersey. President George Bush named him to the 3rd Circuit in 1990. Though he is known for carving out a judicial reputation similar to Justice Antonin Scalia -- intellectually admirable but predictably conservative -- he is said to lack Scalia's feisty manner.
EDITH BROWN CLEMENT
Age: 57
School: Tulane Law School
Background:: Judge on the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana.
Currently: Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit (appointed 2001).

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Clement might be the least known of potential nominees. Clement was among the first batch of judges appointed or elevated when President Bush came into office in 2001. Without a contentious hearing, Clement sailed through the Senate on a unanimous vote when she joined the 5th Circuit in November 2001.

Her greatest fame probably came when she was a district judge in Louisiana and presided over the trial of former Louisiana Gov. Edwin W. Edwards, at one point threatening to fine him $1,000 a word if he violated a gag order. A native of Alabama, Clement went to the University of Alabama and Tulane Law School. She was in private practice in Louisiana before President George Bush named her to the District Court in 1991.

Clement has compiled a solid record on the 5th Circuit. While there are no opinions in her resume that should generate conservative support, neither are there any that seem likely to cause widespread opposition.
EMILIO GARZA
Age: 58
School: University of Texas School of Law
Background:: Marine captain, Texas trial judge, U.S. district judge in the Western District of Texas.
Currently: Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit (appointed 1991).

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Garza came close to the Supreme Court 14 years ago. President George Bush interviewed him after Thurgood Marshall retired but ended up picking Clarence Thomas. At the time, Garza had spent only a few months on the Court of Appeals.

Now there would be no question of experience; Garza has spent more than a decade on the 5th Circuit, compiling a generally conservative record, though his upholding of Supreme Court precedents supporting abortion rights could give pause to social conservatives. A native of San Antonio, Garza is a former Marine captain who graduated from Notre Dame University and the University of Texas Law School. He was in private practice when President Ronald Reagan put him on the District Court in 1988. At the time, he was the youngest District Court judge in the country.

Three years later, in confirmation hearings for the appellate seat, Garza denounced legislating from the bench.
ALBERTO R. GONZALES
Age: 49
School: Harvard Law School
Background:: General counsel to then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush, lawyer at Vinson & Elkins, justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, White House counsel to Bush.
Currently: U.S. attorney general

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Gonzales brings a compelling personal story and a friendship with President Bush to the table. Born in San Antonio, Gonzales was the second of eight children of migrant workers. He went to public schools, joined the Air Force and graduated from Rice University and then Harvard Law School.

Gonzales joined Bush's gubernatorial administration in 1994, taking several roles before he was appointed to the Texas Supreme Court. In January 2001, he was named counsel to the president. After his re-election, Bush nominated Gonzales to attorney general. Opponents focused on memos he oversaw that justified controversial interrogation tactics for terror suspects.

In his time on the Texas court, Gonzales did not compile a conservative record. When his name surfaced as a potential Supreme Court nominee, critics on the right said he wasn't conservative enough, while others complained that he did not have a strong judicial resume.
EDITH HOLLAN JONES
Age: 56
School: University of Texas Law School
Background:: Attorney at the Houston law firm Andrews, Kurth, Campbell & Jones.
Currently: Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit (appointed in 1985).

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Jones was the first female partner at the Houston law firm now known as Andrews & Kurth, active in Republican politics and a recognized expert on bankruptcy law.

But she has also been widely viewed as too conservative to survive a grueling confirmation battle. Amid the speculation that followed Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement announcement, Jones was loudly criticized by liberal groups.

As a judge on the New Orleansbased 5th Circuit, she once wrote a dissenting opinion arguing that a district court's dismissal of a sexual harassment case should be upheld because the harassment had come at the hands of co-workers, not a supervisor.

Jones has received the most attention for her writing in a 2004 case in which the 5th Circuit turned away a challenge to abortion rights by the original "Jane Roe." Jones questioned some of the central findings of the Supreme Court's 1970 decision in Roe v. Wade:

"If courts were to delve into the facts underlying Roe's balancing scheme with present-day knowledge, they might conclude that the woman's 'choice' is far more risky and less beneficial, and the child's sentience far more advanced, than the Roe court knew."
MICHAEL LUTTIG
Age: 51
School: University of Virginia School of Law
Background:: White House assistant counsel for Ronald Reagan and in the Justice Department during the administration of the first President Bush.
Currently: Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit (appointed 1991).

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Luttig, a Texas native, went to Virginia in 1972 to attend Washington and Lee University and never left. He went to the University of Virginia law school and spent most of his legal career at the Justice Department before he was appointed to the Court of Appeals in 1991 by President George Bush.

Luttig was mentored early in his career by Chief Justice Warren Burger and is known for being networked into the Supreme Court.

Though considered a conservative thinker, Luttig's intellectual rigor often leads him away from doctrinaire positions. For instance, though he had previously voted to uphold Virginia's ban on "partial-birth" abortions, after the Supreme Court ruled on the issue, Luttig wrote in 2000 that the state law must be struck down.

In a concurring opinion in a 2001 case called Safety-Kleen v. Wyche, which hinged on technical arguments about issuing preliminary injunctions, Luttig criticized judges who easily ignore both the plight of those before the court and Supreme Court precedents.
MICHAEL McCONNELL
Age: 50
School: University of Chicago Law School
Background:: Law professor at the University of Chicago and the University of Utah, appellate attorney for the firm Mayer Brown.
Currently: Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit (appointed 2002).

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McConnell has the imprimatur of two important pieces of the conservative legal establishment. One is his work in the Reagan administration -- in the solicitor general's office and as an assistant general counsel in the Office of Management and Budget. The other is a stint teaching at the University of Chicago Law School, the think tank of conservative legal scholarship that produced Justice Antonin Scalia. But McConnell also clerked for the liberal Justice William J. Brennan Jr. He has been fervent in his opposition to Roe v. Wadebut also criticized the Supreme Court for its decision in Bush v. Gore. He has supported state aid to parochial schools and the rights of an Indian tribe to use the hallucinogenic drug peyote in its ceremonies.

In an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal, he wrote that Roe v. Wadewas "an embarrassment to those who take constitutional law seriously." But in his 2002 confirmation hearings for a seat on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, he said it was "settled law." During his years on the 10th Circuit, he has not written any opinions likely to excite supporters or opponents.
J. HARVIE WILKINSON III
Age: 60
School: University of Virginia School of Law
Background:: Law professor at the University of Virginia. He was also at the Justice Department during the Reagan administration and served as the editorial-page editor of The Virginian-Pilotin Norfolk, Va.
Currently: Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit (appointed 1984).

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The first summer job that Jay Wilkinson had in high school was a messenger for a Richmond law firm. He was hired by a friend of his parents, Lewis Powell. When Powell was named to the Supreme Court in 1971, Wilkinson was the first clerk he hired.

Wilkinson had graduated from Yale University in 1967, spent two years in the Army, ran unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives, then went to law school.

He taught at Virginia for three years after clerking for Powell, and then joined the Virginian-Pilotas editor of its editorial page. He went to Washington in 1982, working in the Civil Rights Division of the Reagan administration's Justice Department.

Reagan appointed him to the 4th Circuit in 1984, and he has been there ever since, serving a seven-year rotation as chief judge from 1996 to 2003. Wilkinson has carved out a solid conservative reputation, but he has also made himself a center of courtesy and collegiality on what has often been a contentious court.