J. Harvie Wilkinson III, 60, reminds many lawyers of his mentor, the late Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. He has spent more than 20 years as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, where he is known for his courteous manner and self-described "humane" conservativism.

The son of a wealthy Richmond banker, Wilkinson went to Yale and the University of Virginia School of Law. He served in the Army, ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for Congress in 1970 and clerked for Powell, a family friend, in 1972-73.

But unlike most candidates for the Supreme Court, Wilkinson -- known as "Jay," from his first initial -- never practiced law in the private sector. He taught at Virginia's law school for five years and was editorial page editor of the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk from 1978 to 1981. After serving in the Justice Department's civil rights division, he was appointed to the 4th Circuit by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Wilkinson's rulings include a 1987 opinion striking down a minority set-aside program for city contractors in Richmond and a 1996 decision upholding the "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gays in the military. In a string of national security cases since Sept. 11, 2001, he has urged judicial deference to the executive branch in times of war.

-- Alan Cooperman