Emilio M. Garza, 57, is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit and has already been on the short list for a Supreme Court nomination.

Justice Department officials interviewed Garza in 1991, when he was among a handful of candidates being considered by President George H.W. Bush to succeed Justice Thurgood Marshall.

But Garza then had only three years of experience on the federal bench, and his views on many issues were unknown. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas instead.

A former Marine captain, Garza earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Notre Dame and graduated from the University of Texas School of Law. He practiced law in his native San Antonio for 11 years and served as a state district judge for a year before President Ronald Reagan nominated him to the U.S. District Court in 1988. Three years later, Bush elevated him to the 5th Circuit.

Since then, Garza has developed a reliably conservative judicial record that includes criticism of the Roe v. Wade abortion decision of 1973. In 1997, Garza sided with the majority in upholding a lower-court decision that struck down parts of a Louisiana law requiring parents to be notified when a minor child seeks an abortion. In his concurring opinion, however, he expressed doubts about whether Roe v. Wade was well grounded in the Constitution.

"[I]n the absence of governing constitutional text, I believe that ontological issues such as abortion are more properly decided in the political and legislative arenas," Garza wrote. ". . . [I]t is unclear to me that the [Supreme] Court itself still believes that abortion is a 'fundamental right' under the Fourteenth Amendment."

-- Christopher Lee