Obama interviews appeals court judge for Supreme Court

Thursday, May 21, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has interviewed Federal Appeals Court Judge Diane Wood for the Supreme Court, in one of the face-to-face meetings he's holding with finalists, officials said Wednesday. The move signals Obama is getting closer to one of the most far-reaching decisions of his presidency.

Wood, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago, is among a small number of people being seriously considered for the high court. She was in Washington on Wednesday for a conference at Georgetown University. Wood declined to answer questions about the Supreme Court position at the event.

Four months into his presidency, Obama has the opportunity to nominate someone who could serve on the high court for decades. The Democratic president's choice is not expected to shake up the ideological makeup of the court; Justice David Souter, who is retiring, has been a reliably liberal vote.

The White House is not commenting on whom Obama is interviewing.

Officials familiar with Obama's deliberations spoke on condition of anonymity because the White House has kept details of the process private.

Another contender under serious review, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, was at the White House on Tuesday for an event about auto fuel efficiency.

Wood, 58, was nominated for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by then-President Bill Clinton in 1995 and confirmed by the Senate. Her career includes teaching at the University of Chicago law school, where she also served as associate dean.

Wood took part in the Washington conference along with another of Obama's candidates for the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Elena Kagan.

The lunchtime speaker was Souter himself.

Also attending the day's panel discussions at Georgetown University Law Center were Justice Stephen Breyer and retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has led the annual event since her retirement from the court in 2006.

She noted that Souter is "going to join me in that now very exclusive group of retired Supreme Court justices. His presence will double the membership."

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