President Bush chose federal appeals court judge John G. Roberts Jr. today as his first nominee for the Supreme Court, selecting a rock solid conservative whose nomination could trigger a tumultuous battle over the direction of the nation's highest court, a senior administration official said.
Bush offered the position to Roberts in a telephone call at 12:35 p.m. after a luncheon with the visiting prime minister of Australia, John Howard. He was to announce it later with a flourish in a nationally broadcast speech to the nation.
Roberts has been on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since June 2003 after being picked for that seat by Bush.
Advocacy groups on the right say that Roberts, a 50-year-old native of Buffalo, N.Y., who attended Harvard Law School, is a bright judge with strong conservative credentials he burnished in the administrations of former Presidents Bush and Reagan. While he has been a federal judge for just a little more than two years, legal experts say that whatever experience he lacks on the bench is offset by his many years arguing cases before the Supreme Court.
Liberal groups, however, say Roberts has taken positions in cases involving free speech and religious liberty that endanger those rights.
Abortion rights groups allege that Roberts is hostile to women's reproductive freedom and cite a brief he co-wrote in 1990 that suggested the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 high court decision that legalized abortion.
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