Tribe In Running To Be Clinton's Solicitor General

Law Prof. Has Supporters in Congress

Tyler Professor of Constitutional Law Laurence H. Tribe '62 is one of three or four candidates remaining for solicitor general. White House and Senate officials said yesterday.

Senate Democrats on the Constitution Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee have also thrown their support to Tribe, whose testimony was instrumental in helping Democrats kill the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Robert Bork in 1987.

"We've already weighed in on his behalf," said John D. Trasvina '80, majority staff director for the Constitution Subcommittee.

Officials said a nomination from President Clinton is expected within the next two weeks.

Trasvina said he did not know whether Tribe, a constitutional law scholar and experienced Supreme Court litigator, was the top candidate for solicitor general--the nation's top trial lawyer. He and others do consider Tribe a very strong contender.


"How could Larry Tribe not be highly considered for solicitor general?" said Gene Sperling, the White House's deputy assistant to the president for economic policy. Sperling worked for Tribe in 1989, helping on constitutional law cases and briefs, and researching for Tribe's book on abortion, Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes, and other articles.

Tribe last week confirmed rumors that he was under consideration for the Justice Department post, and he has removed himself from a case he was removed himself from a case he was trying before the Supreme Court to avoid any conflict of interest should he be nominated. The solicitor general represents the government in cases before the Supreme Court.

"He's probably the top constitutional law scholar of the century," Sperling said yesterday. "He is just considered the premier constitutional litigator of our time right now, and I think there's no question about that."

However, Tribe has his enemies on Capitol Hill. He has been vocal on constitutional issues, most particularly on abortion, and Republicans still remember the Bork testimony.

In an interview yesterday, Tribe said he isn't concerned about the Republican opposition he might face if nominated.

"I'm not worried about any of the scrutiny," he said.

Republicans on the Constitution Subcommittee are not backing any candidate for solicitor general and are keeping quiet until someone is named.

"We wouldn't even want to talk about it until Clinton gave us someone to talk about," said Paul Smith, '54, press secretary for Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), the Judiciary Committee's top ranking Republican. "It's up to Clinton...and they don't even ask our opinions."

Another strike against Tribe is that he isn't very well connected to Clinton.

"I don't know the President or First Lady very well," Tribe said yesterday. "I'm not in the FOB or FOH group."

Sperling said, "The biggest obstacle he'll face is that...probably he's not somebody who has super strong ties, personal ties with a lot of top people in the Clinton administra- tion."

Tribe is still a top candidate, Sperling said, "in spite of that."

Tribe has contributed generously to the campaigns of political candidates. He gave $1,500 to the campaign of Sen. Harris L. Wofford (D. Penn.), and $500 to Sen. Arlen Specter (R. Penn.), who won in a tough race in November 1991. He gave $250 to the presidential campaign of Sen. Bob Kerrey, and then gave $1,000 to the Clinton campaign. Tribe's wife Carolyn, an antique dealer, gave another $1,000 to Clinton.

If nominated and confirmed, Tribe would join a number of Harvard professors who have already been chosen for Clinton administration posts. The Law School last week lost Professor of Law Christopher F. Edley Jr., who was appointed as associate director of the Office of Management of Budget.

Tribe, who graduated from the Law School in 1966, has taught there since 1968