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What another woman would bring to Supreme Court

Expectations are high that Obama will nominate a woman. Though female jurisprudence is not much different from that of male judges, women tend to be more pro-women's rights and to tilt more toward plaintiffs in sex-discrimination cases.

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"If Obama is considering two fairly moderate people, one a woman and the other a man, we would expect the woman to cast more liberal votes in sex-discrimination cases," two of the researchers wrote in The Washington Post on May 3. "The same would be true if the president were considering two very liberal candidates, again, one a man and one a woman.

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The recently argued Supreme Court case over the strip-search of a 13-year-old girl, though not a sex-discrimination case, illustrates how often-like-minded judges of opposite sexes can see things differently.

During the argument, Ginsburg expressed indignation at the idea of an adolescent girl being asked to shake out her bra and panties in front of school administrators.

Justice Stephen Breyer seemed to shrug. "In my experience, when I was eight or 10 or 12 years old, you know, we did take our clothes off once a day, we changed for gym, OK?" he said.

In an interview later with USA Today, Ginsburg elaborated on her perspective in the case – and that of some of the male justices. "They have never been a 13-year-old girl," the justice said. "It's a very sensitive age for a girl. I didn't think that my colleagues, some of them, quite understood."

Ginsburg and O'Connor have spoken at length about the discrimination they experienced as law students and as young lawyers trying to launch a career. Today, nearly half of law students are female, as are nearly one-third of American lawyers. Women's groups hoping that Obama replaces Justice Souter with a woman say he has plenty of excellent choices.

If Obama doesn't choose a woman, will he face repercussions from his liberal base and the legions of women who supported him?

"There would be an awful lot of disappointed people around the country, men and women," says Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center. "Like in any other situation, there'd be scrutiny on the person, and that's going to be true on a woman or a man."

Though Obama aides have made clear that overt lobbying could be counterproductive, Ms. Greenberger said the White House has been open to ideas and suggestions.

Not all women think the sex of the next justice should be of paramount concern. In this day and age, with a black president, the third woman as secretary of State, and a diverse Cabinet, Obama should look foremost at qualifications, says Carrie Lukas, vice president for policy and economics at the Independent Women's Forum.

"You don't want everyone to have the exact same background and the exact same set of experiences, because we do know that that does influence how people think," says Ms. Lukas. "But I just hope that we're in the process of moving beyond identity politics every time there's a major appointment."