The White House has released more information about its short list of nominees to replace John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court.
One of the names reportedly being considered -- a name that had been largely overlooked by political observers -- is yet another appellate court judge with Chicago roots: Ann Claire Williams.
Most of the speculation about the Obama administration's choice for the next Justice has centered around Solicitor General Elena Kagan and Judges Diane Wood and Merrick Garland. The latter two have strong ties to Chicago.
Compared to those three, Judge Williams is something of a dark horse candidate. But a closer look at her resume reveals that she could be a strong match for the president's criteria for the court.
The 60-year-old judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals was born in Detroit, and got her bachelor's degree from Wayne State University before attending law school at Notre Dame. To this end, she marks a sharp contrast from the current body of justices; of the nine, John Paul Stevens, whom she would be replacing, is the only justice who did not attend Harvard or Yale Law School. Stevens received his Juris Doctorate from Northwestern.
Williams also has a somewhat richer diversity of work experience than the average judge: before she earned her law degree, she taught third graders and music classes in inner-city Detroit schools.
She would also be the first African-American female justice.
And the Chicago Tribune points out another benefit to nominating Williams: she was named to the bench by Ronald Reagan, a fact that might help her avoid some of the shrill partisan debate that is likely to surround any Obama appointee.
The Trib goes on to discuss some criticisms of Williams:
As a trial judge, Williams sometimes faced criticism that she had a pro-prosecution streak. Mobster Ernest "Rocco" Infelice once told Williams that she didn't give him a fair trial and acted like a member of the prosecution team.
A 1991 evaluation of Williams by the Chicago Council of Lawyers praised her as "firm, fair, bright and very hard-working." But it also said she sometimes appeared indecisive, unfamiliar with civil matters and occasionally seemed testy on the bench.
Still, Williams' name on the short list just adds to the likelihood that the next Supreme Court justice, like the current president and possibly the next Senate Majority Leader, might hail from the Chicago area.
President Obama is expected to make his announcement by May to allow for confirmation hearings before the court's next session.
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