Wood plans for senior status, giving Biden another 7th Circuit pick

Judge Diane Wood of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has announced she will be taking senior status, giving President Joe Biden a third opportunity to fill a vacancy on the Chicago-based appellate bench.

Wood was nominated to the 7th Circuit by President Bill Clinton on March 31, 1995, and confirmed three months later by the U.S. Senate. She served as chief judge from 2013 to 2020, becoming the first woman to hold the position.

According to the U.S. Courts Administration, Wood has announced her plans take senior status but did not identify the exact date she will become a senior judge.

Her decision comes about a week after her colleague, Judge David Hamilton, announced he would be taking senior status. Hamilton was former President Baraka Obama’s first judicial nominee and endured a bitter confirmation battle.

Biden’s first nominee to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, filled the vacancy created when Judge Joel Flaum took senior status in November 2020.

Also, Biden has two vacancies to fill in the Indiana district courts. Northern Indiana District Court Judge Theresa Lazar Springmann took senior status in January, and Southern Indiana District Court Judge Richard Young announced over the summer his plans to take senior status.

Prior to joining the 7th Circuit, Wood spent much of her professional life in the public sector and academia.

She earned her law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1975, then served as a law clerk for 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Irving Goldberg from 1975 to 1976 and for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun from 1976 to 1977. Subsequently, she served in the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Justice as well as on the law faculty at Georgetown University and the University of Chicago. She also spent about two years in private practice.

President Barack Obama considered Wood twice for the U.S. Supreme Court, once as a potential replacement for Justice David Souter, who retired in June 2009, and then for Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired in 2010.

In an interview as part of the Oral History of Distinguished American Judges project through the New York University School of Law, Wood said she was told by the White House that she was under “serious consideration” for the vacancies.

“I did talk to President Obama each time, and it was plain to me and plain to him that this was obviously a multifactored decision for him. So I would say you wouldn’t go through it a third time,” Wood said. “It’s fine, it was flattering to be thought of in that kind of company, but it didn’t happen.”

One newspaper columnist argued Wood would be the standout pick for the Supreme Court because she is an oboe player.

“It’s a trait more reflective of her character than any childhood experience or religious conviction,” Meghan Daum wrote for the Los Angeles Times in April 2010. “It might even be more important than her stance on abortion.”

Wood described herself as a “frustrated musician” and said she took up the double reed instrument when her children were young. At the time of the oral history interview, she was a member of the Chicago Bar Association Symphony Orchestra.

“It keeps me going,” Wood said. “I think I would not likely play the oboe very much if it was just a question of finding a chamber group here and there and doing it. It’s the continuity and the fun of working with other people who couldn’t care less that I’m a federal judge. The question is, ‘Am I holding up the oboe part?’”

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