Judge Wood Goes to Washington

Just two days after Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s sudden appearance in Washington set off a flurry of speculation about Supreme Court interviews, here’s something that actually could be significant:

Federal Appears Court Judge Diane Wood, one of the leading contenders to replace David Souter, is in Washington today. The highly regarded Wood is here, ostensibly, to attend a legal conference at Georgetown. But the timing is curious, and here’s why.

According to a student, she didn’t teach her first-year civil procedure class at the University of Chicago Law School yesterday afternoon and provided no advance notice or explanation. That’s apparently because she was flying to DC—to attend the long-scheduled judicial conference, even though she is not on the program as a panelist or participant.

You know what I think about Gov. Granholm’s odds of becoming Obama’s pick. But Diane Wood is another story. She among the top three prospects Obama is considering, along with Judge Sonia Sotomayor and Solicitor General Elena Kagan, sources tell me. Like those two, she's filled out the exhaustive questionnaire and undergone the intensive vetting and FBI background check. There's one thing left: the crucial interview with the President.

Sources tell me Obama has not decided whom he will choose. But of the three, Wood comes closest to meeting the criteria he has laid out in a justice. She could be his home run pick: She brings the intellectual heft and collegiality that would command respect on the Supreme Court, along with the life experiences that Obama has indicated he wants in his nominee. What’s more, Obama knows her. They both taught at the University of Chicago Law School.

Wood is a long-time professor at Chicago and one of the nation’s top experts on international trade and antitrust. She is extremely well regarded on the federal appeals court for her command of the law, the craftsmanship of her opinions and collegiality; she has proven herself by going toe-to-toe with conservative heavyweights like Posner and Easterbrook. She also has support from conservatives like colleague Richard Epstein, who admires her rigor.

And she has the “life experience” that Obama has said he wants. In many ways, she’s an updated version of Justice Ginsburg. She didn’t have doors slammed shut because of sex discrimination, like Ginsburg did, but she didn’t always have an equal playing field, either, and she’s endured the modern stresses of a working mother.

Wood, for example, worked in a rigorous environment while pregnant and, then, with a two-week old at home—since her employer didn’t offer pregnancy leave. As I wrote last week, she knows the struggle and the juggle. She has performed at the highest levels of academia and appellate work--and now is poised for the opportunity of a lifetime. 

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