NOW Spotlight on Supreme Court Candidates: Diane Wood

By Angela Griffore, Field Intern

Over the past 35 years, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has made a profound impact on the legal rights of women. As Stevens prepares to retire, President Obama is getting ready to make his second nomination to the high court. After the history-making confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina justice, who will be next? NOW urges the president to choose another woman — after all, the Supreme Court bench is still made up of only 22 percent women. President Obama, it’s time for another major step toward equality!

Throughout the next couple of weeks, right up until the president announces his pick, we will be taking a look at some of the leading women candidates plus a few we think should be on the short list. Starting with top contender Diane Wood…

In 2009 Diane Wood was on the short list for the Supreme Court seat that went to Justice Sotomayor. A year later, the 59-year-old Wood finds herself in the same position. Wood has a reputation as a “sharp, thoughtful and liberal-minded jurist”; qualities that many believe could make her a fitting philosophical replacement for retiring Justice Stevens, maintaining the balance of the Court.

Wood was born in New Jersey, and attended the University of Texas for both college and law school. She received her B.A. with highest honors and special honors in English in 1971, and her J.D. with high honors in 1975. She was among the first women to clerk at the Supreme Court when she clerked for Justice Harry A. Blackmun, author of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Wood has spent most of her career in Chicago, where she taught at the University of Chicago Law School at the same time as Obama and now works as an appellate judge and lectures part-time.

Wood is widely known for her Seventh Circuit opinion on the NOW v. Scheidler case, in which she ruled in favor of the plaintiffs using racketeering-conspiracy law to sue violent and harassing clinic protesters. This opinion was later reversed by the Supreme Court, with Justice Stevens dissenting. Similar opinions appear to indicate that Wood is a supporter of reproductive justice. The Chicago Tribune reports that in 1993, Wood wrote a law review article praising former Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun for articulating in Roe and other cases “the important insight that a core set of individual rights exist that neither the states nor the federal government may trample.”

While conservatives are already pinning her as a “liberal activist,” lawyers who have argued before Wood hold a different view and are stressing that the liberal-jurist label is an oversimplification. She has earned praise from people across the ideological spectrum, and has been described as having the ideal judicial temperament. Read more about Diane Wood and check back to Say it Sister for more highlights on the possible nominees.

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