An FBI representative met briefly with Utah Gov. Norm Bangerter this week as part of a routine background check on a trial lawyer being considered for the No. 2 job in the Justice Department.

Published reports last week said Harold G. Christensen, 61, was Attorney General Edwin Meese's choice for the post. White House officials confirmed only that Christensen was a candidate for the vacancy left by the March 29 resignation of Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns.Bob Hagendorf, of the FBI's Salt Lake City office, met privately with the Utah governor for about 15 minutes Tuesday.

Afterward, Hagendorf declined to comment on what was discussed in the meeting, or the scope of the background investigation of Christensen.

And, saying "I'm just a little cog in a big operation," Hagendorf said he had no information about when the FBI would complete its background review.

Francine Giani, Bangerter's spokeswoman, said Christensen is a longtime friend and "supporter of the governor's." And Bangerter gave Christensen an "absolutely" clean bill of health, she said.

Christensen is a senior partner in a prominent law firm in Salt Lake City, and served as Utah State Bar president in 1975-76. He is a Republican but has never run for office.

Officials were expected to conduct a thorough background check in the wake of the stymied attempt last month to appoint St. Louis lawyer John Shepherd to the Justice Department's No. 2 slot.

The choice was announced before a routine background investigation, and Shepherd later withdrew from consideration amidst controversy involving his membership in clubs that excluded women or blacks.

Meese's first choice to replace Burns was former federal Judge Arlin Adams, who rejected the offer because he said he had continuing commitments to his Philadelphia law firm.