Women, minority groups express disappointment in pick

Maybe next time.

The naming of a conservative such as John Roberts to the Supreme Court caught few legal experts by surprise. Still, there was disappointment Wednesday among some women and minority advocacy groups who had hoped for a selection reflecting greater diversity.

In two years on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Roberts has left a thin trail of legal opinions offering relatively few clues. The advocates – while hoping Roberts, a Harvard Law School graduate, is attuned to civil rights – remain hopeful that President Bush will use future appointments to reflect greater inclusiveness.

“We’re obviously disappointed that the president didn’t take what was a historic opportunity to take one of several qualified Latino candidates around the country,” said Larry Gonzalez, a director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Legal experts expect there will be at least one more vacancy by the time Bush leaves office in 2008. Chief Justice William Rehnquist is battling thyroid cancer, and the Supreme Court’s oldest justice, John Paul Stevens, turned 85 in April.

“This nomination of a white male from an elite background makes it more likely the next nomination isn’t going to be the exact (same) kind of candidate, whether an Hispanic or a woman,” said G. Edward White, a law professor at the University of Virginia.

“I think Bush would like to put an Hispanic on the court. I don’t think the Roberts nomination is an abandonment of that goal.”

Not all women were upset by the selection of Roberts.

“I think President Bush has made a good start in replacing supremacist judges with judges who support the Constitution,” said Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the conservative Eagle Forum. “I don’t care whether he chooses a man or a woman. We want people who believe in the Constitution the way it was written.”