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Thursday January 18, 2018
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Suellyn Scarnecchia



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."

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