The White House will nominate Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge James C. Cacheris to one of the new federal judgeships in Virginia, and is leaning to the selection of a woman, Elsie L. Munsell of Alexandria, as the new federal prosecutor in Northern Virginia, according to congressional sources.
Cacheris, 48, of Annandale was one of four men recommended last month by Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) after a search by Warner that had emphasized finding qualified blacks and women, but wound up with a list of 13 white males for judicial vacancies in the state.
Munsell, a 42-year-old U.S. magistrate, was considered by Warner for the judgeship, but she asked not to be considered "at this time," the senator said, because of a relative lack of experience. Virginia has never had a female federal judge.
Both Cacheris and Munsell are believed to have been the first choices of Warner, who was asked by the Justice Department to make his preferences known after he submitted his original lists last month.
The nomination of Cacheris reportedly awaits only completion of a background check by the FBI, but Munsell's nomination as U.S. attorney for Northern Virginia could be sidetracked because of objections from Virginia Republicans who believe her political credentials are not as good as those of two men recommended by Warner.
A representative of the White House has been circulating Cacheris' name among Republican members of Virginia's delegation in the House, an action that traditionally indicates the person favored by the state's majority-party senator.
While Warner would neither confirm nor deny that Cacheris was his first choice for the judgeship, he acknowledged that he had "expressed a strong preference" for Munsell for the prosecotor's post.
Cacheris was one of 10 white men recommended by Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. (I-Va.) for a judgeship nearly three years ago, but President Carter rejected Byrd's list because it failed to include any women or minorities.
Instead, Carter nominated Richmond Circuit Court Judge James E. Sheffield, who would have become the first black federal judge in Virginia. Sheffield withdrew his name from consideration last August after it was disclosed during his confirmation hearing that he had been the subject of tax investigations by the Internal Revenue Service.
Cacheris was selected by the White House from a list that originally also included Harvey B. Cohen of Vienna, M. Patton Echols Jr. of Arlington and State Circuit Court Judge Wiley R. Wright Jr. of Alexandria. Cohen said yesterday he had asked last week that his name be withdrawn from consideration.
A native of Pittsburgh, Cacheris has been a trial judge in the 19th judicial circuit in Fairfax since 1971. Before that he was a partner in the Alexandria firm of Howard, Stevens, Lynch, Cacheris & Cake.
Munsell was one of five persons recommended by Warner. Supporters of two others on his list, Kenneth L. Foran, 39, and Barry R. Poretz, 37, both of Alexandria, have urged the White House to consider them because of their previous work in political campaigns.
Warner's strong support of Munsell apparently grew out of his respect for her decision to take herself out of the running for a judgeship.
Warner said Munsell told him she did not want a waiver of standards in exchange for a chance to become a judge. The American Bar Association recommends that federal judges have 12 to 15 years experience and Munsell was not admitted to the bar until 1972.