WASHINGTON - Judge Anthony M. Kennedy is a judicial conservative, but one whose style more closely resembles that of Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., the pragmatic centrist who retired from the Supreme Court in June, than that of Judge Robert H. Bork, the critic of liberal judicial activism whose nomination for the vacancy was defeated last month.
President Reagan announced Wednsday he would appoint Kennedy, 51, of Sacramento, Calif., to the Supreme Court as he bid for the third time to fill a high court vacancy and end a politically embarrassing episode.
Reagan praised Kennedy as a ``tough judge who respects the law'' as he made the appointment in a nationally televised appearance in the White House briefing room.
Reagan's first attempt to fill the vacancy on the court ended in a 58-42 rejection for appeals court judge Robert H. Bork. His second appointment, appeals court judge Douglas Ginsburg, withdrew even before his formal nomination papers could be sent to the Senate after admitting that he had smoked marijuana.
While it is impossible to tell how Kennedy would affect the court's ideological balance, several experts who have studied some of his 500 judicial opinions in 12 years on the bench said he seems much less likely than did Bork to change it dramatically.
Mainly for this reason, some conservatives who passionately supported Bork opposed the nomination of Kennedy, who is clearly no liberal. They argued that this would be a capitulation in the long-standing effort by President Reagan to reverse the court's direction.
Kennedy has been a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit since President Ford appointed him in 1975. He has longstanding, if not especially close, ties to Reagan, for whom he drafted a tax-cutting referendum proposal during Reagan's tenure as governor of California. Kennedy also has strong support from some conservatives who are in and close to the Justice Department and who were once his law clerks.
Scholars who have studied Kennedy's opinions say they represent the work of a highly intelligent jurist with solid qualifications for the Supreme Court, if not the kind of towering intellect with a clearly defined philosophy that many saw in Bork's work. …