Supreme Court Nomination 'Won't Be Long,' Clinton Says

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Selection of a new Supreme Court justice to replace the retiring Harry A. Blackmun "won't be long," President Clinton said Thursday, as aides predicted that the announcement would come early next week.

As has usually been the case, Clinton's selection process has taken somewhat longer than his aides had predicted. Shortly after Blackmun announced his resignation last month, White House Counsel Lloyd N. Cutler told reporters that a decision would be made before the end of April. But since then, White House officials have told reporters that Clinton feels "no time pressure" on the selection as he continues to mull over a short list of prospects.

"There's one or two other things going on here, but we're working on it," Clinton told reporters after a White House event designed to drum up support for legislation banning some assault weapons. "We're spending a good deal of time on it. It won't be long."

Asked about one leading candidate, federal appeals court Judge Richard S. Arnold of Arkansas, Clinton offered warm praise. He also sought to counter those who argue against selecting Arnold because the Administration already has too many Arkansas appointees, several of whom have been involved in politically embarrassing problems.

"I don't think any American would expect someone to be disqualified because they happen to come from my state," Clinton said.

"I mean, he was first in his class at Harvard and Yale, he's the chief judge of the 8th Circuit and he's been head of the appellate judges association," he said. "So I don't think anyone would question--it would be difficult to find, just on terms of those raw qualifications, an appellate judge with equal or superior qualifications."

If Clinton decides not to appoint Arnold, he has several other candidates on his list, including federal appeals court Judge Amalya Kearse of New York, who is black, and federal district Judge Jose A. Cabranes of Connecticut, who would be the first Latino nominee for the high court.

Another possibility is Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.

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