Arborites Jan and Robby DeBoer, who'd sought to adopt her, and her biological parents in Iowa, Dan and Cara Schmidt. The Schmidts won, and, with cameras whirring, Scarnecchia, grim-faced, carried the crying child to a waiting van.
"It was so emotional," Scarnecchia, fifty-two, recalls. "It was just a tiny little story when we decided to take the case...and then it spread. It was on the cover of everything."
Scarnecchia, described by a former colleague as shy but tough, never wanted the attention. Yet these days her $295,000-a-year job is one of the most visible at the U-M. Although things have been relatively calm since she was hired in June 2008, the U-M's lawyer-in-chief has often been in the hot seat. Her predecessor, Marvin Krislov, spearheaded the fight to use racial diversity as a factor for admission to the U-M--a battle the university won at the Supreme Court then lost at the ballot box when Michigan voters passed an initiative banning affirmative action at state-supported schools.
Scarnecchia says she's fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of experienced people. But you get the sense she'd be coping just fine even if she weren't. She's warm and down-to-earth but says, "I have very strong self-confidence."