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Did White House Ever Really Consider Edith Jones for Supreme Court?

In virtually every list of possible nominees the White House was reportedly considering for  the Supreme Court this year, the name almost always included was that of U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Edith Jones of Texas.  The New York Times  even reported that Jones, one of the most respected of "strict constructionists" on the federal bench, might well have been one of the five finalists interviewed by the President in the process that culminated in the nomination of John Roberts to succeed Sandra Day O’Connor.  As the Times reported on July 20th, "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 who were definitely interviewed by the President were J. Harvie Wilkinson of Virginia, another appellate judge who discussed his interview with the Times, and Roberts himself, eventually moved for nomination to chief justice following the death of William Rehnquist in September).

But was Jones, one of the most-favored nominees of conservatives, really interviewed or even considered for the Supreme Court?  Two sources close to the Texan–reportedly the runner-up for the 1989 Court vacancy to which that the elder George 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 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 those candidates who Dr. James Dobson and the White House claim took their names out of consideration for the nomination that went to White House Counsel Harriett Miers.  When we contacted Judge Jones, her spokesman replied "Judge Jones does not grant interviews." 

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

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