WASHINGTON — President Reagan plans to announce his new nominee for the Supreme Court today amid widespread speculation that the nod will go to California federal appeals court Judge Anthony M. Kennedy.
Conservatives in the Administration and in the Senate, however, continued Wednesday to push for Douglas H. Ginsburg, a federal appeals court judge here, whom they consider more ideologically rigorous. Ginsburg, formerly a Harvard Law School antitrust expert, served briefly as assistant attorney general in charge of antitrust policy before being put on the appeals court late last year.
Aides to Democratic senators and leaders of groups that successfully opposed the nomination of Judge Robert H. Bork say that so far they have seen nothing in Kennedy's record that would spark serious controversy. Ginsburg, however, could be highly controversial, in part because of his age, 41, and relatively brief judicial experience.
Reagan, Aides to Meet
Reagan is scheduled to meet with Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III and White House Chief of Staff Howard H. Baker Jr. this morning and may interview both Kennedy and Ginsburg before making a decision, sources close to the selection process said. An announcement of the new nominee is expected this afternoon.
One source, however, cautioned that supporters of Kennedy and Ginsburg could still argue each other into "a standoff," which could prompt Reagan to turn to other candidates. Although Baker initially presented Senate Democrats and Republicans with a list of 13 candidates, most have been dropped either because of opposition from Republicans or suggestions from Democrats that the nominee could spark a battle similar to that which culminated in Bork's rejection last week.
Among the few remaining alternatives on the list is David H. Souder, 48, a well regarded New Hampshire Supreme Court justice and former state attorney general. Souder has been pushed by Sen. Warren B. Rudman (R-N.H.), who is close to both Baker and White House counsel A. B. Culvahouse.
Objections to Winter
Others within the Administration support federal appeals court Judge Ralph K. Winter Jr. of Connecticut. Winter initially drew little opposition. But over the last two days, some conservatives have objected that his opinions on free speech and criminal law issues are too liberal, and some liberals have questioned his criticisms of federal laws barring discrimination in employment.
As speculation mounted that Kennedy would be picked, some conservatives at the Justice Department and elsewhere in the Administration expressed disappointment. "I have a hard time figuring out what he believes," said one who admits to being still "very depressed over Bork's defeat."
Kennedy "is not an intellectual conservative," another said. "I would not feel as confident about him as some others, like Ginsburg. He's more likely to go awry than Ginsburg."
Conversely, Kennedy drew praise from liberals like senior U.S. Circuit Judge Warren J. Ferguson, 67, a Democrat appointed by former President Jimmy Carter. President Reagan should have nominated Kennedy "in the first place and avoided the whole mess," Ferguson said.
Kennedy, 51, is a lifetime resident of Sacramento and has served on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals since 1975, when he was nominated by then-President Gerald R. Ford. The son of a longtime legislative lobbyist, he is familiar with political circles in the state capital, having served as the California Senate's first page when he was 10.
As a judge, Kennedy is best known for three opinions. One upheld the right of the Navy to dismiss homosexuals but noted he was saying only that the regulations did not violate the Constitution, not "that they are wise." The Supreme Court did not review the ruling.
Opinion on Pay Raises
He expressed similar caution in an opinion holding that federal civil rights laws do not mandate "comparable worth" policies to raise the pay of workers in jobs held mostly by women. States remain free to adopt such policies, he noted in the ruling, which the high court also did not review.
In the third opinion, in which he was upheld by the high court, Kennedy ruled that the Constitution's separation of powers doctrine forbade "legislative vetoes"--provisions in numerous federal laws that allowed either house of Congress to void a government regulation.
Staff writers Leo C. Wolinsky in Sacramento and William Overend in Los Angeles contributed to this story.