Michael W. McConnell, 50, has been a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, based in Denver, since his appointment by President Bush was confirmed by the Senate in 2002.

Before then, he was mostly a legal academic, having served as a law professor at the University of Chicago from 1985 to 1996 and subsequently at the University of Utah.

McConnell's good standing with the legal professoriate helped him immeasurably during the confirmation process; more than 300 fellow professors, including many liberals, endorsed him for the bench.

An eclectic thinker who served both as a law clerk for the liberal icon Justice William J. Brennan Jr. and as an official in the Reagan administration, McConnell has expressed his opinions on a wide range of subjects, including a Wall Street Journal opinion piece in December 2000 in which he expressed doubts about the legal reasoning of the Supreme Court's Bush v. Gore decision.

But his outspoken disagreement with Roe v. Wade has earned him the condemnation of liberal advocacy groups (though at his confirmation hearing, he called it "settled law"). Conservatives like his writings favoring government "neutrality" toward religion.

As a judge, McConnell has upheld Congress's power to criminalize the possession of homemade child pornography. In a case soon to be reviewed by the court, he voted to prohibit enforcement of federal anti-drug laws against people who consume hallucinogenic tea as part of a religious ritual.

-- Charles Lane