Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, 49, has less time on the bench than the other likely Supreme Court candidates but has one crucial advantage: the close friendship of President Bush.

Gonzales grew up as the son of impoverished Mexican immigrants and went on to graduate from Harvard University Law School. Bush, then the governor of Texas, hired him as his general counsel and appointed him in 1999 to the Texas Supreme Court. Bush brought Gonzales to Washington as his White House counsel in 2001.

The Senate approved Gonzales as attorney general in February on a 60-36 vote after he faced sharp criticism from Democrats over the role he played in approving detention and anti-terrorism policies. Yet legal experts say that the strongest opposition to Gonzales as a Supreme Court candidate would probably come from the right, primarily because of positions he has taken on such issues as abortion and affirmative action.

While on the bench in Texas, Gonzales sided with a majority in a 2000 case allowing an unidentified 17-year-old girl to obtain an abortion without notifying her parents, finding that she qualified for an exception to that state's parental-notification law. In a concurring opinion, Gonzales said that to side with dissenters in the case would amount to "an unconscionable act of judicial activism."

Gonzales also testified at his confirmation hearing for attorney general that he recognizes the Roe v. Wade decision affirming the right of a woman to have an abortion as "the law of the land."

Advisers close to the White House have said that Bush likes the idea of appointing a Hispanic justice.

-- Dan Eggen