Much to her surprise, the dean of Hofstra University Law School woke Sunday morning to find she had just been thrust into the national political conversation as a possible contender for a seat on the United States Supreme Court.
National Public Radio speculated that Dean Nora V. Demleitner, 42, of Port Washington, was among those being considered by President Barack Obama for a job on the nation's highest court.
"I was very surprised in that NPR mentioned me," Demleitner said in an interview Monday. "It's an incredible honor to be mentioned."
But the speculative allusion by legal affairs reporter Nina Totenberg may be as far as it goes.
Demleitner said she has not been contacted by anyone from the Obama administration. The staff of Judiciary Committee member Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) declined to comment on Demleitner's possible nomination to replace U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, who is retiring in June when the court's term ends.
Brian Griffin, former president of the Criminal Courts Bar Association of Nassau County, said he read about Demleitner's potential candidacy in the newspaper.
"I wasn't aware of her until she started appearing on the radar in the last few days," Griffin said. "It's comforting to know that someone with serious understanding of criminal law - the serious consequences and permanency of any conviction - is being considered for the Supreme Court."
Demleitner said she was baffled about how her name got mentioned.
"Like everybody else, I know a lot of people who have connections, but I could not begin to imagine who would have done it," Demleitner said of a possible nomination.
It was her brother-in-law from Wisconsin who called Demleitner around 10 a.m. Sunday to let her know that Totenberg was mentioning her name as a possible long-shot prospect for the job on the high court.
Professor Julian Ku, who teaches constitutional and international law at Hofstra, said Demleitner has some unusual qualifications.
"What makes her different is that her work is not focused primarily on U.S. laws. She's looking at U.S. laws in the context of the global community," said Ku. "There is no one like her on the court. It would be totally an out-of-the-box pick."
In January 2008, Demleitner became the first woman and the youngest person to assume the dean's post in the law school's 39-year history, according to Sun Min, a spokeswoman for the law school.
Demleitner spent most of her career in academia, teaching in Germany, Italy, Michigan, Texas, Miami and at Hofstra. She has written extensively on the disfranchisement of convicted felons.
Demleitner said she favors abortion rights, supporting women's and girls' legal rights to choose whether to continue a pregnancy to term.
"It's hard to imagine that the next case coming before the court would be over whether we're going back to the pre-Roe vs. Wade time. There have been many cases that have come in between," Demleitner said. "But will someone's political view color an opinion on this question? Of course."
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