Judge Diane Pamela Wood, 58, has spent the last 14 years going toe-to-toe with the legendary conservative lions of Chicago’s 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Richard Posner and Frank Easterbrook, and her fans say she could ably fill the shoes of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the moderate-liberal wing of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Wood often finds herself the lonely dissenter on three-judge panels, arguing that atheists should be able to challenge the mostly-Christian prayers Indiana legislators use to open their sessions, that a gay Wisconsin teacher should be able to sue for alleged discrimination, that a Jewish condo dweller should be able to sue for discrimination when the building makes her take down her mezuzah, or that Indiana voters should not have to show ID to vote.
Conservatives dominate here in the 7th Circuit, which includes Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana. Wood, sometimes in the majority, other times in dissent, has taken the pro-choice side in three high-profile cases that could become lightning rods for conservatives if she is President Obama’s first nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.
One particularly interesting aspect of the story is its emphasis on Judge Wood’s personal connections to individuals of influence within the Obama Administration, including Abner Mikva and Cass Sunstein. Judge Wood would deservedly be on any Democratic President’s short-list for the High Court, but her connections could boost her prospects should there actually be an opening.