After weeks of intensive background checks, President Reagan has finally done the expected this week - nominating Salt Lake trial lawyer Harold G. Christensen to be deputy U.S. attorney general, the No. 2 man in the Justice Department behind Edwin Meese.

Christensen ought to sail through the Senate confirmation process. He is a man of integrity, honesty, skill, and impressive intelligence. He is going to need all those attributes in the final months of the Reagan administration.While being deputy attorney general for the nation is a high honor, the Justice Department is in something of a mess. Christensen's highly touted organizational skills will be needed to bring order out of chaos.

The No. 2 post has been empty for more than two months since Arnold I. Burns and others resigned in protest over Meese's leadership in the wake of several investigations over Meese's financial affairs. Efforts to find replacements have run into problems.

While Meese says he will not resign despite calls in Congress for him to step down, and Reagan says he will not ask for Meese's resignation, there is still a possibility that Christensen could end up in the top job, at least for a few months, if Meese runs into more legal trouble.

Christensen, 62, has decades of experience as a trial lawyer, is senior partner in one of Salt Lake City's most prestigious law firms, is a former president of the Utah State Bar, and is described in glowing terms by many of the state's top lawyers.

Christensen has never held a position in government, but he understands the legal system and ought to quickly win the respect of government attorneys in the Justice Department. Others describe him as objective, moderate, and with the ability to work well with others, while still being firm and well organized.

Congratulations to Christensen and to the administration for a wise choice.