"[T]he Bushies asked Maureen Mahoney if she was interested in being considered for a court of appeals position (Fourth Circuit, I think), but she declined. Obviously, SCOTUS is a totally different kettle of fish."
It goes without saying that this is most interesting. As noted by this reader, Mahoney's reported lack of interest in a circuit court position doesn't preclude her from being nominated to the Court. After all, two of the most prominent short-listers -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and PepsiCo general counsel Larry D. Thompson -- are not sitting federal judges. But Mahoney's lack of interest in federal judicial service is somewhat surprising. After all, who doesn't want to be a federal judge?
And could this news mean that Mahoney is not, for some unfathomable reason, interested in serving on the Supreme Court? Because the federal appellate bench is the "farm team" for the SCOTUS, anyone with ambitions to serve on the Court someday should jump all over a nomination to a circuit court. The need for prior judicial service on a lower court is especially pressing for Mahoney, who thanks to Grutter must regain the trust of conservatives like Quin over at Confirm Them.*
Here are a few observations from UTR correspondents about Maureen Mahoney's impressive intellect and pleasant personality:
"Maureen is ridiculously smart -- 'a brain on legs.'"
"[Maureen Mahoney] is exceedingly nice, but somewhat reserved. She doesn't go looking for political debates. From what I can gather about Roberts -- by being a dork and watching much of his hearings on C-SPAN, to observe his demeanor -- she is the female equivalent of Johnny Boy."
And here are some comments on her political leanings:
"I once attended a talk that Mahoney partcipated in about the Grutter case. She emphasized that the key to the case was winning over 'that no backbone bitch Sandra' (okay, Mahoney actually referred to her as 'Justice O'Connor'). When asked if she agreed with the law school's position, she said she thought it 'made sense' and was 'logical' -- not exactly a ringing endorsement, but also not a 'My personal views are irrelevant, I'm just a lawyer advocating on behalf of my client.'"
"Among people in the know, it is 'known' that Maureen Mahoney is really conservative. She wasn't personally in full agreement with Michigan's argument in the Grutter case. But she would never, ever give the slightest indication that that was the case to anyone."
Over at Confirm Them, however, people are less sanguine about Mahoney's ideological bona fides. One reader comment to this post describes Mahoney as "Souter in a skirt" and "[o]ne of these Georgetown Republicans out to please her liberal friends." (Gee -- at this rate, Maureen Mahoney will soon be compared to a certain other Maureen!)
Finally, if you haven't read it already, take a look at this absolutely fascinating Washington Post article, by Michael Grunwald, which delves into "the most rarified constellation of the legal galaxy, the exclusive club of Supreme Court appellate specialists."** The article focuses on incoming Chief Justice Roberts's illustrious career as an advocate before the Court, but it mentions many other SCOTUS bar superstars by name. Grunwald notes that the club of Supreme Court specialists is "nearly all white, nearly all male, nearly all based in Washington." But he does quote Mahoney, one of the few female members of the group, who described the "scholastic atmosphere" in the Solicitor General's office under Kenneth W. Starr (OT 1975/Burger).***
* Consider the last paragraph of Quin's post:
[If President Bush] nominates Mahoney, I will try to lead a huge revolt. The Michigan case — and her SUBSEQUENT defense of it as well — is a disqualifier unless and until she serves serious time on a federal circuit bench establishing a record that makes up for it.
Article 3 Groupie also has concerns about Mahoney's conservatism, although A3G may be more willing than some of her fellow conservatives to trust the White House to make a proper assessment. But A3G did enjoy Quin's reference to "serv[ing] serious time on a federal circuit bench," with its implied comparison of a federal appellate court to prison! (See also Marcia Davis's interesting WaPo article about how Chief Justice Roberts will now be serving a life sentence over at One First Street.)
** A3G can't help wondering: Is her prose style of breathless adoration creeping into the mainstream media's treatment of legal superstars?
*** Check out Kenneth Starr's resume, including his service as Solicitor General and as a judge on the Most Holy D.C. Circuit. Because of his association with the tawdry saga of Whitewater and Monicagate, it's easy to forget that Starr is one of the most brilliant lawyers of his generation, as well as under 60.
Can you imagine the insanity and spectacle that would ensue if President Bush were to nominate Ken Starr to the Supreme Court? A3G would be lovin' it! She would call in sick for a week, so she could sit in front of C-SPAN and catch every minute of the ridiculously magnificent circus that would unfold before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Maybe a tearful Monica Lewinsky would return from the other side of the pond, to testify against Starr in all her thong-clad glory. How great would that be?