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Woman nominated for court

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg graduated from law school in 1959, having been at the top of her classes at both Harvard and Columbia, she found that universities wouldn't even consider her for a possible teaching job.

Then a Supreme Court justice turned her down for a clerkship because she was a woman.

And as she said Monday in the White House Rose Garden, pointing out a certain irony as she was being nominated by President Clinton for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court: "Not a law firm in the entire city of New York bid for my employment."

Since then Ginsburg, 60, has been a champion of women's rights, including the right to an abortion.

Clinton, making the first Supreme Court nomination by a Democratic president in 26 years, praised Ginsburg as a "healer" who could help bring consensus to a court that has become ideologically fractured in recent years.

"Throughout her life, she has repeatedly stood for the individual, the person less well-off, the outsider in society, and has given those people greater hope by telling them they have a place in our legal system," Clinton said.

Clinton was moved to tears when he announced the appointment of Ginsburg on Monday, ending a long and tortuous three-month search for a nominee to replace retiring Justice Byron White.

Ginsburg said her nomination to the Supreme Court would help end the days when women "appear in high places only as one-at-a-time performers."

If confirmed, she would join Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was the first woman named to the high court. Ginsburg would be the first Jewish justice since Abe Fortas resigned in 1969.

She is the first nominee by a Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson selected Thurgood Marshall in 1967.

Clinton said he had considered 40 candidates for the court, including federal appeals court Judge Steven Breyer and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.

With support from Democrats and Republicans alike, Ginsburg appeared likely to be confirmed easily by the Senate _ no doubt a factor in her selection by a president plagued by a string of embarrassing missteps.

"I think it's an excellent choice," said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee. "She's going to make a very excellent justice."

"I would expect an overwhelming if not unanimous vote," said Sen. William Cohen, R-Maine, another committee member.

It could take as long as three months for Ginsburg to be confirmed because of the congressional schedule.

Completing an FBI background check could take several weeks, after which the Judiciary Committee would hold hearings and vote. The Senate is scheduled to begin its monthlong summer recess Aug. 9, and if a vote doesn't come before then, it would wait for mid-September.

Hatch, who said he was consulted frequently by the White House as Clinton zeroed in on a nominee, promised cooperation and said the committee would "certainly try to get her confirmed before the first Monday in October, when the court convenes."

Ginsburg was a founder of the American Civil Liberties Union's Women's Rights Project in the 1970s and her record on the bench shows she tends to be pro-plaintiff in civil rights and sex discrimination cases.

In 1980, when President Carter appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Ginsburg was considered the least liberal of Carter's four appointments during his term.

A 1988 computer study by Legal Times found that she sided more often with Republican appointees on the appeals court than with Democrats. In divided cases, she lined up most often with two Reagan appointees, Judge Kenneth W. Starr, who later became President Bush's solicitor general, and Judge Laurence Silberman.

In a White House handout summarizing her 13 years on the appeals court, officials presented her as tough on crime, committed to free speech and freedom of religion, and supportive of civil rights but sensitive to enforcing the laws "in a way that heals rather than divides us as a nation."

Although Ginsburg favors abortion rights, since 1984 she has been criticizing the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion as too expansive, blaming it for a backlash on the other side.

Ginsburg believed the decision should have been based on the principle of a woman's right to choose, not on the right to privacy.

In a speech in March, Ginsburg argued that the court erred with the "breathtaking" sweep of the Roe decision, saying that a less far-reaching decision that allowed states to continue to move forward with reform of abortion laws on their own "might have served to reduce rather than to fuel controversy."

The current, conservative-to-moderate Supreme Court often splits 5-4 on contentious issues, including some abortion rulings.

Clinton was looking for a consensus builder who could work with the eight Republican appointees and tug the court toward a more moderate stance.

Ginsburg had been considered a Supreme Court candidate almost from the start, and the White House began reviewing her writings in March, said press secretary Dee Dee Myers.

Throughout last week, however, senior officials said privately that the race was down to Babbitt and Breyer. Breyer went to the top of the list and was considered the likely nominee after Clinton decided to keep Babbitt in the Cabinet.

However, Clinton told his staff he wanted to have two candidates from whom to choose, and Ginsburg's name resurfaced.

White House officials insisted that Breyer's failure to pay Social Security taxes for a part-time cleaning woman, although a concern, did not play a role in Clinton's final selection of Ginsburg.

_ Information from Associated Press, the Baltimore Sun, Cox News Service and the Washington Post was used in this report.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Age: 60

Job: Appointed to federal appeals court in Washington by President Carter in 1980.

Education: Studied at Harvard, earned law degree from Columbia University.

Background: Taught law at Columbia University and Rutgers University. A founder of the Women's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union in the 1970s.

Hobbies: Water skiing, horse riding.

Family: Husband, Martin, teaches law at Georgetown University. Two children, two grandchildren.