WASHINGTON -- Sandra O'Connor, nominated to be the first woman on the Supreme Court, emerged as a top candidate because of her solid record as a judge and state legislator, Justice Department sources said Tuesday.
Department officials identified Mrs. O'Connor as a prime candidate after a review of her work and her reputation in the legal community, the sources said.
'We have found an individual whl is a woman whl brings to this post quite unique experiences,' one source said, noting that she has served in a legislature as well as on the bench.
Mrs. O'Connor emerged at the top of the list for the Supreme Court opening after a review of 20 to 25 names that included the 'who's whl of the American legal and judicial community,' a source said.
A number of other women and blacks also were on the list, the sources said.
They said it is misleading to characterize Mrs. O'Connor as a proponent of the Equal Rights Amendment or as pro-abortion.
'She has acted in a reasoned way,' a source said. He said her work as an Arizona state court judge has been characterized by judicial restraint.
While in the Arizona Senate, a source said, Mrs. O'Connor voted in favor of bringing ERA out of committee onto the floor because 'in her view, it merited full Senate consideration.'
During her time in the legislature, Mrs. O'Connor voted against a bond issue dealing with sports facilities that included an anti-abortion rider on the technical grounds that the state constitution says two different areas should not be covered by the same bill, the sources said.
In 1970, the sources said, she co-sponsored a measure for state agencies to disseminate information about family planning.
But, they said, she also drafted and sponsored legislation that gave employees in state public hospitals the right to refuse to participate in abortions.
In addition, she was responsible for drafting Arizona's death penalty statute and, as a trial judge, she imposed the death penalty, the sources said.