Michael Boudin, a high-ranking official in the Justice Department's antitrust division and a former partner at the law firm of Covington & Burling, has been nominated to a vacancy on the U.S. District Court here, the White House has announced.

Boudin, 50, is known as a specialist in antitrust and public utilities law and as an appellate lawyer. He joined the Justice Department during the Reagan administration, but has not been considered particularly ideological, according to several lawyers and conservative activists.

Boudin, who is deputy assistant attorney general for policy and legislation in the antitrust division, was nominated May 18 to take the seat vacated when U.S. District Judge John H. Pratt took senior status in December. The White House has sent the nomination to the Senate, where the Judiciary Committee must schedule a confirmation hearing.

Boudin is the son of the late Leonard Boudin, a veteran civil rights lawyer who represented a long list of clients, including labor organizers, draft resisters, victims of McCarthyism, civil rights activists and radicals of all stripes. Michael Boudin's sister is Kathy Boudin, the former Weather Underground fugitive who is serving a prison term for her role in a 1981 armored car robbery.

Several conservative activists applauded the nomination; liberals took a wait-and-see stance.

Boudin is considered a "mainstream conservative," said Alan Slobodin of the Washington Legal Foundation, a conservative legal think tank.

Charles Cooper, a former assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration, said Boudin "is not known as being particularly ideological. He is a sensible man with excellent judgment, and painstakingly rigorous in getting at the facts and applying the law honestly to the facts . . . . He is a brilliant man."

Cooper said the Reagan administration had tried for years to snare Boudin for a job at the Justice Department, which he joined in 1987.

Melanne Verveer, executive vice president of the liberal lobbying group People for the American Way, said, "He does not appear to be ideological, but we will be looking at his record very carefully."

Boudin, who declined to comment on the nomination, spent more than 20 years at Covington & Burling, one of the District's most prestigious firms.

For the past eight years, he has been a lecturer at Harvard Law School, where he received his law degree. After law school, he was a clerk for the late Judge Henry J. Friendly of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and then for Supreme Court Justice John M. Harlan.