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Judicial Bouts Reveal Power Of Persuasion

Publication Date: 
April 21, 2010
Source: 
The New York Times
Author: 
Sheryl Gay Stolberg

Lecturer Thomas Goldstein is quoted in this New York Times article on potential U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Judge Diane P. Wood. Sheryl Gay Stolberg filed this story:

There were few liberals and just one woman on the federal appeals court in Chicago when Diane P. Wood, an antitrust expert with a flair for foreign language and an ear for playing the oboe, showed up in the summer of 1995. The chief judge, a scholarly conservative named Richard A. Posner, promptly gave her some advice.

The appeals bench, Judge Posner warned, was like “a system of arranged marriage with no divorce.” His message to his junior colleague was clear: Pick your battles carefully. Compromise when you can.

In the 15 years since, Judge Wood, 59, has done just that, playing the role of philosophical outlier, a left-leaning woman in a world of right-leaning men, including Judge Posner and Judge Frank H. Easterbrook, a sharp-tongued intellectual who is now the court’s chief. The three have a long history together; all are former law professors at the University of Chicago, where an ambitious young state senator named Barack Obama made a name for himself lecturing on constitutional jurisprudence.

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Judge Wood disagreed. In the end, Judge Easterbrook reversed himself to join a unanimous opinion that reflected her stance — an outcome that has drawn attention from longtime court watchers like Thomas C. Goldstein, the editor of scotusblog.com, which tracks the Supreme Court.

“It’s hard to find more confident and strong-willed judges than Frank Easterbrook and Richard Posner — they’re brilliant and they know it,” Mr. Goldstein said. “If she can have a decades-long relationship with these judges and maintain their respect, and do things like have Easterbrook come around in the mezuzah case, it really shows that she’s not tilting at windmills. She is very invested in persuading.”