Background on retiring Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun:
* AGE: 85
* EDUCATION: A.B. Harvard College; LL.B, Harvard Law School.
* EXPERIENCE: Law clerk to federal appeals court judge, 1932-33; private law practice, Minneapolis, 1934-50; resident counsel, Mayo Clinic, 1950-59; federal appeals court judge, 1959-70; associate justice of the Supreme Court, 1970 to present.
His Key Decisions
* ABORTION: In 1973, Blackmun authored the Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
* FREE SPEECH: In a 1977 decision, Blackmun wrote for the court that a blanket ban on lawyer advertisements violated free-speech rights.
* FEDERAL LAW: Wrote 1985 opinion that Congress has almost unlimited power to force state and local governments to comply with federal laws--including those requiring overtime pay for more than 40-hour workweeks.
* WORKER RIGHTS: Wrote 1991 decision that said employers may not bar women from certain hazardous jobs just to protect fetuses. A 1984 opinion he wrote required states to offer "clear and convincing" evidence of parental unfitness before permanently severing all parent-child ties.
'We all pick up tabs. I'll carry this one to my grave.'
--Blackmun commenting in 1983 on the standard reference to him as author of the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion.
The Current Balance
Generally, a "conservative" justice believes that the courts should not become involved in social problems that have been the domain of elected legislators. Judicial "liberals" are inclined to enter the social policy fray. The current breakdown, with the president who appointed each.
6) Harry A. Blackmun (Nixon)
3) David H. Souter (Bush)
4) Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Clinton)
8) John Paul Stevens (Ford)
2) Anthony M. Kennedy (Reagan)
5) Sandra Day O'Connor (Reagan)
7) William H. Rehnquist (Nixon)
9) Antonin Scalia (Reagan)
1) Clarence Thomas (Bush)
High Court Contenders
Leading the pack . . .
George Mitchell, Senate majority leader, 60
* Federal district judge of his native Maine, 1979-1980
* Generally liberal, the Democrat has been a strong advocate of environmental protection laws.
* Has strong friends in Senate and would probably win confirmation easily.
Following closely behind . . .
Bruce Babbitt, secretary of the Interior, 55
* Was close to being named to the high court last year. A campaign by environmentalists kept him in his current position.
* Is reportedly liked by Clinton for his ability to forge coalitions and reach compromises.
Jose Cabranes, Federal district judge in Connecticut, 53
* Born in Puerto Rico and moved to New York City at the age of 6. Would be the first Latino member of the high court.
* Has compiled a well-regarded but low-key record as a district judge.
The rest of the pack . . .
Richard Arnold, Federal appeals court judge in Arkansas, 58
* Clinton is known to have regard for Arnold. Even so, White House officials doubt Clinton would turn to another Arkansan.
Stephen Breyer, Federal appeals court judge in Massachusetts, 55
* Came within an interview of winning a Supreme Court seat last year.
* Had bipartisan support, but he appeared not to hit it off with Clinton.
Drew S. Days III, Solicitor General, 52
* Holds a post that has traditionally been seen as a springboard to the high court. His job performance has caused trouble with the White House.
* Among the top-ranking blacks in the Administration.
\o7 Sources: Times Washington Bureau, Times wire reports\f7