‘Times-Picayune’ Braces for Possible Hometown Pick to Supreme Court

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By: Joe Strupp

As reporters at the Times-Picayune in New Orleans scramble to write up everything they can about rumored U.S. Supreme Court nominee Edith Brown Clement, editors contend that the hometown judge may be a solid pick for George Bush due to her conservative credentials but little history of controversial rulings.

“She is considered to be a conservative who is a reliable conservative, but has not had high-profile rulings on hot-button issues,” says City Editor Jed Horn. “That may not please the far right, but Bush may need someone who can be accepted, a win….She is known for not being so known. Not having high-profile decisions. She was a maritime lawyer in New Orleans for many years.”

Clement’s name surfaced earlier today after the White House announced Bush would reveal his choice to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor tonight. The Times-Picayune, which had mentioned Clement’s name in a July 2 story about several local judges rumored to be under consideration, has four reporters in the paper’s 35-person main newsroom working on Clement-related stories for Wednesday’s paper, which will run if Bush chooses her, and perhaps if, in a surprise letdown, he doesn’t.

“We are reviewing her record, presenting biographical material and we are in touch with people who were involved in sponsoring her for her current post [on the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals],” Horn added, noting that she received unanimous Senate approval for the appeals court seat.

One ruling that got the newsroom’s attention was a 2001 decision by a three-judge panel of the court of appeals that reviewed an earlier Clement decision at the U.S. District Court level (see other story today on E&P Online). In that case, the panel rejected media arguments against Clement’s decision to withhold jurors’ names and pre-trial questionnaires in the corruption trial of Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown. But, the appeals court panel ruled that Clement overstepped her bounds when she told reporters not to “circumvent” her order. “I think we saw it as a flawed ruling,” Horn said.

Clement also was a “prot?g?” of Donald Ensenat, “an old friend of the Bush family,” Horn said. Ensenat is currently U.S. Chief of Protocol and attended a White House dinner with President Bush on Monday night. Horn noted that Clement, a Tulane Law School graduate, was an Ensenat classmate there.

If Clement is named the new justice, Horn said the paper would “certainly give it big play” but declined to say exactly how much space, noting “that will have to be decided.”

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