President Bush has moved quickly to nominate a new chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He has asked appellate court Judge John Roberts, named earlier to fill another vacancy on the Supreme Court, to take the job left vacant by Chief Justice William Rehnquist's death.
John Roberts was originally chosen by the president in July to fill the slot left by retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Now, he is the president's choice for chief justice.
"Judge Roberts has earned the nation's confidence, and I am pleased to announce I will nominate him to serve as the 17th chief justice of the Supreme Court," he said.
Less than 48 hours after the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, President Bush appeared before television cameras with Judge Roberts at his side.
Mr. Bush indicated he was looking for a sense of continuity, saying John Roberts, who once served as a law clerk for Justice Rehnquist, has many of the same qualities as the man who led the Supreme Court for the last 19 years.
"He is a gentleman, he is a man of integrity and fairness, and, throughout his life, he has inspired the respect and loyalty of others," he said.
President Bush also made clear that he expects an expedited confirmation process in the U.S. Senate, since Judge Roberts was already under consideration for the O'Connor slot on the court. Judge Roberts has already met with key lawmakers, who are well into the process of scrutinizing his legal record.
"The Senate is well along in the process of considering Judge Robert's qualifications. They know his record and his fidelity to the law," said Mr. Bush.
Confirmation hearings for Judge Roberts for the vacancy left by Justice O'Connor were scheduled to begin this week. The president left open the possibility that they may go ahead, with the Senate considering him for the chief justice position instead. Mr. Bush said he wants a new chief justice in place when the court reconvenes on October 3.
Funeral services for Chief Justice Rehnquist are now scheduled for Wednesday, and there is a possibility the Roberts hearings will be postponed for a few days.
Standing next to the president, Judge Roberts spoke briefly of the task of following a man on the court that he considered a mentor and a friend.
"I am honored and humbled by the confidence that the president has show in me, and I am very much aware that, if I am confirmed, I would succeed a man that I deeply respect and admire," he said.
The selection of John Roberts to fill the chief justice vacancy means another nominee must be chosen to replace Justice O'Connor. President Bush said he plans to do so promptly.