Liberals Rally Behind Diane Wood for the Supreme Court

After dismissing Elena Kagan, liberals make their case

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With Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens's retirement drawing nearer, President Obama is still weighing his short-list of potential replacement nominees. Liberal commentators, after balking at "front-runner" Elena Kagan as too conservative, are rallying behind Diane Wood. A federal appeals judge in Chicago and a lecturer at the University of Chicago, where Obama once taught law, Wood has drawn fire from conservatives for her record on abortion. Here's the liberal case.

  • The Ideal Liberal, But 'Not Left-Wing'  Salon's Glenn Greenwald leads the charge. "If one were to analogize the search for Justice Stevens's replacement to the recently concluded health care debate, Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Diane Wood would be the public option," he writes. He kicks off his very lengthy and detailed exploration of Wood's record:
Although many progressives would likely choose a more ideological or left-wing legal theorist if they had free rein to pick, an objective review of Wood's record -- as a Clinton DOJ official prosecuting anti-trust cases, as the first female tenured faculty member at the University of Chicago Law School, and as an appellate judge for the last 15 years -- reveals what a truly ideal replacement she would be for Justice Stevens. Having spent much time reviewing her clear, lengthy and substantial record, as well as interviewing former clerks and colleagues (all on the record), there is ample compelling evidence demonstrating why she would be such an asset on the Court.
  • Record of Convincing Conservatives  The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg documents Wood's history on the conservative-dominated 7th Circuit Appeals Court, where she performs ably in the "regular three-way legal boxing match" with her conservative fellow judges. Wood, a brilliant debater, has a record of convincing staunch conservatives to join her in liberal opinions. "That is precisely why President Obama is interested in her. ... Mr. Obama is seeking someone who can serve as an intellectual counterweight to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., but who possesses the same consensus-building skills as Justice Stevens — skills that might tip a 5-4 court toward more liberal outcomes."
  • ...For Example?  The American Bar Association Journal's Debra Weiss writes, "Posner agreed with her that a statute barring so-called partial-birth abortions was unconstitutional; his objection was that there was no exception for the health of the mother. And Easterbrook changed his stance in a case involving a condo association that barred mezuzahs, agreeing with Wood and finding against the association." And Scalia's kids baby-sat for her!
  • Wood Can Make a Difference  Mother Jones' Kevin Drum advocates, "the thing about Wood that has most impressed me is that she's not just someone with a solid progressive view of the law, but someone with the intellectual heft to make a difference on the court. ... I think this is quite likely the most important trait in a Supreme Court choice right now. Not only does Wood have basically sound views, but she has a track record of using those views to actually make a difference. She speaks her mind and doesn't back down from a fight, but she also knows how to win fights. That's something we need right now."
  • The Message It Sends America  Salon's Daniel Novack adds, "the message a Wood appointment sends versus Kagan. Appointing Wood is an affirmation that one need not check their values at the door in service of ambition. Wood is undoubtedly ambitious, but she clearly hasn't sacrificed her identity or beliefs for the sake of advancement. She is an affirmation of the best kind of meritocracy in America. Selecting Kagan sends the exact opposite message - that we should simply serve power relentlessly until we get our shot at the big time."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.