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SCOTUS Update: Lisa Madigan's Name Pops Up, Durbin Predicts Showdown

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Apr 19, 2010 4:30PM

With the recent announcement that Supreme Court Justice (and Chicago native) John Paul Stevens will soon retire from the nation's high court, speculation has been growing over who President Obama will tab as Stevens' replacement, including a few with Chicago connections. But now a Slate feature that breaks down their Top 21 candidates includes a name we hadn't really considered before: State Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Consider this for Madigan's column: She successfully argued a case before the Supreme Court, the first attorney general to personally do so in 25 years—while seven months pregnant. The case, Illinois v. Caballes, gave police the authority to use drug-sniffing dogs on the outside of a stopped vehicle without a warrant or reason to suspect possession.

As notes, Madigan has other serious law-and-order bona fides, such as advocating for stricter supervision and registration of sex offenders, stronger methamphetamine laws, and scrutiny of the state's gaming industry.

Of course, even if she is considered a candidate, she's a long-shot at this point and Sen. Dick Durbin foresees a fight a-coming once Obama does pick a candidate. Speaking to WBEZ, Durbin said: "My fear is, though, that it’s going to descend into a political catfight since it’s so close to an election. But if we can find a person with the stature of John Paul Stevens, someone who is moderate in their approach and brings this back to a centrist court, that’s the best thing for America."

The leading candidates to replace Stevens are considered to be Solicitor General Elena Kagan, 49, and federal appellate Judges Merrick Garland, 57, and Diane Wood, 59. Wood, of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, located here in Chicago, was also considered a favorite to fill the Souter vacancy though she's recently come under fire for her stance on abortion. And while Garland is currently a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, he was born right here in Chicago.