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Religious Expression Case Highlights High Court Prospect

By Camela Furry in News on May 11, 2009 2:20PM

Illinois Judge Diane Wood, one of President Obama's prospects to fill the upcoming vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, will be in the spotlight on Wednesday during oral arguments Wednesday in a case involving religious expression. The arguments will take place at the Dirksen Federal Building.

Last year she upheld the right of condominium owners to post religious symbols, including observant Jews to post mezuzot (plural of mezuzah, a sign of faith to observant Jews), and Christians to post crucifixes, in a case to decide whether a condo association violates owners' civil rights by banning religious symbols from a unit's front door. She said the defendant Lynn Bloch should be able to present a jury with evidence that she was discriminated against when the condominium board began removing her family's mezuzah in 2004. In that case, two more-conservative judges outvoted Judge Wood's ruling. The family has asked for another hearing which will be heard on Wednesday by the 7th Court of Appeals.

According to the Sun-Times:

She has already come under attack from critics who say she is too liberal. “Judge Wood has betrayed a consistent hostility to religious litigants and religious interests,” the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network said in a statement Friday.

But Wood, at least in the mezuzah case, championed the religious litigants’ side.

If Obama were to nominate Wood (a former colleague at the University of Chicago) he would cite this case and a case where her opinion reversed a Chinese woman's deportation for fear she may be subjected to forced abortion, as proof that Wood does not take the liberal side of each case she has. [Additional info: Tribune]