McCain will seek judges like Roberts, Alito

US Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain (R-AZ) speaks during a visit in Charlotte, North Carolina, May 5, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Keane

WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain said on Tuesday he would appoint judges in the mold of conservatives John Roberts, Samuel Alito and former Chief Justice William Rehnquist if he were elected in November.

In an excerpt from a speech McCain was to give in Winston-Salem on Tuesday, the Arizona senator said he would “look for accomplished men and women with a proven record of excellence in the law, and a proven commitment to judicial restraint.”

“I will look for people in the cast of John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and my friend the late William Rehnquist -- jurists of the highest caliber who know their own minds, and know the law, and know the difference,” McCain said.

Roberts, the current chief justice, and Alito were both named to the U.S. Supreme Court by Republican President George W. Bush. Legal experts say they have helped move it to the right. The court has the final word on questions of U.S. law and its rulings affect the rights of all Americans.

The court has been closely divided between liberal and conservative factions on such contentious issues as abortion, the death penalty and church-state separation. Republicans and Democrats have battled frequently over judicial nominations, which must be voted on by the U.S. Senate.

McCain angered some conservatives in 2005 when he joined with a group of Democratic and Republicans senators on a compromise that averted a threat by leaders in the then-Republican-led Senate to prevent Democrats from blocking consideration of Bush’s conservative judicial nominees.

In his speech on Tuesday, McCain criticized his Democratic rivals, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, for voting against the nominations of Roberts and Alito.

Referring to Obama, McCain said, “Apparently, nobody quite fits the bill (for the court) except for an elite group of activist judges, lawyers, and law professors who think they know wisdom when they see it -- and they see it only in each other.

Editing by Peter Cooney