As President Reagan starts his search for a replacement for retiring United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. today, the names of US Circuit Court Judge Robert Bork and US Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah reportedly head his list. Some close-in judicial scholars insist, however, that Judge J.Clifford Wallace of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (San Diego) could have an inside track to the nomination.
Others being mentioned are, like Mr. Wallace, also federal judges. Included are: Thomas Gee and Patrick Higginbotham, both of the Fifth Circuit (Texas); Roger Miner of the Second Circuit (New York); Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit (Chicago); and Ralph Winter of the Second Circuit (Connecticut).
Some court watchers also offer the name of Pasco Bowman II of the Eighth Circuit (Kansas City). Little known to the general public, Judge Bowman is a Virginian (like Justice Powell), a former Fulbright scholar, and an authority on business and commercial law.
All are committed conservatives and would be ideologically compatible with the philosophies of President Reagan and Attorney General Edwin Meese III.
Judge Bork of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has been considered the top candidate of conservatives for the US Supreme Court since the election of President Reagan.
A former US solicitor general and acting attorney general during the Watergate period, Bork is known for his intellect and scholarship. He has long been associated with the American Enterprise Institute, a powerful conservative think tank.
Some observers, however, say that Bork's connections with former President Nixon could give Democrats an opportunity to dredge up the Watergate affair during Senate confirmation hearings, something that the White House might want to avoid.
Senator Hatch, a popular and articulate lawmaker since his election to the Senate in 1976, has consistently voted with the administration on so-called ``litmus'' issues. For example, he is an advocate of organized prayer in the public schools and wants tough laws that would restrict abortion.
If the Utah legislator is tapped for the high court by President Reagan, Congress would have to pass a special law setting his salary lower than the $110,000 the other associate justices receive. This move would be necessary to comply with a constitutional prohibition against a member of Congress taking a job for which the pay recently has been raised. Judicial salaries were increased on Jan. 1.