I’ve been a little bit hesitant to write about the Supreme Court nomination sweepstakes since (a) I think conventional wisdom overrates the importance of the Supreme Court in American life, and (b) the short list only seems to have two people on it and I know Dianne Wood’s daughter and am sensitive to the idea of bias in this kind of thing. But Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s NYT article on Wood’s work as an outnumbered liberal on the 7th Circuit is very much worth your time. I was speaking to some progressive lawyers with experience in the relevant fields, and they emphasized to me that the key aspect in this regard isn’t exactly “persuasion” since federal judges are usually strong-minded and strong-willed people. It’s mastering a certain brand of legal craftsmanship where you can put together a written opinion that people who don’t necessarily share your overarching philosophy can sign on to. On a divided Supreme Court, that kind of skill is very important.
I also think there’s something to be said for adding someone to the center-left faction on the court whose area of expertise is in anti-trust law. The bulk of what the Court does is in the economic regulation realm and not on the “hot button” social issues. Regulatory issues are also the side of the law where specific expertise is more likely to make a difference.