Diane Wood, A Texas Alum And Recent Alcalde Profile Subject, Is Top Contender For Supreme Court

The frenzy of Supreme Court speculation has begun, and a University of Texas alum is at the center of it all.

Justice John Paul Stevens announced his impending retirement Friday morning, and Judge Diane Wood, who now sits on Chicago’s 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, has been among the first possibilities mentioned to replace him in just the past few hours.

Wood, BA ’71, JD ’75, was a colleague of President Obama’s while both were teaching at the University of Chicago Law School. She was the very first person Obama interviewed for the only vacancy the court had yet seen in his term. Although that nomination went to Sonia Sotomayor, legal system observers speculated Wood’s name would come up again.

And so it has. 

There are plenty of generalized bios and lists of Wood’s credentials out there, but interviews — let alone profiles — are rare.

The Texas Tribune does have a nice post today complete with recollections of Wood from her UT law professors, who remember her as “an extremely attractive person,” “very modest and calm,” “very solidly grounded,” and “fun, lively, and a good conversationalist.”

But for even deeper insight into what shaped Wood as both a person and a judge, check out “Diane Wood and the Supremes, the Alcalde‘s in-depth story on her from last summer. 

She recalled how UT’s Plan II program (and ’70s culture of campus protests) shaped her, and later, what it was like being the only woman (let alone mother) on the University of Chicago’s law faculty. “People had no idea what to do with the fact that I had these two tiny children,” she said.

Being a woman gave her different insight into legal issues; she helped a group of students draft the university’s first sexual harassment policy, which was nuanced and recognized the power dynamics in different kinds of relationships.

She fondly remembered clerking for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun in 1976, when she and the other clerks had breakfast with him every morning and got to know his thinking on everything from legal issues to the Minnesota Twins.

Wood, interviewed for nearly two hours in her chambers overlooking Lake Michigan, was every bit as kind, calm, and modest as everyone who knows her has made her out to be.

But she was assertive on the topic of a nomination to the highest court. “I would be honored to be considered again if there were an again, and if there weren’t, that’s fine — I’ll carry on,” she said. “As a judge, you can’t campaign for such things. I’m in the luxurious position of knowing that the people who count know that I am here, and if they’re interested, they’ll let me know.” 

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