Continued from page 1

Judge Scheindlin has faced heat before, most notably a decade ago when she presided over the trials of Osama Awadallah and one newspaper labeled her “Osama’s best friend,” a reference that some could misinterpret to refer to Osama bin Laden.

“You could be in danger, physically,” she said.

The Awadallah case is memorable to Judge Scheindlin for how it reflected the mood of the attitude across the country after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mr. Awadallah, born in Venezuela and raised in Jordan, was a young immigrant in San Diego who was picked up as a material witness after his telephone number was found in a car that one of the hijackers drove to the airport on Sept. 11. Prosecutors agreed he was no terrorist but claimed he intentionally misled grand jurors about how well he knew one of the terrorists. Defense attorneys said he was left confused after 20 days in detention.

The judge said she learned in talking to jurors after Mr. Awadallah’s first trial that they came within one vote of convicting him of false statements. At the next trial, he was exonerated.

“Same evidence. Same prosecutor. Same defense lawyers. Jury goes from 11-to-1 to 12-zip,” she recalled. “So I asked what happened. The answer is the country had turned in a new direction.”

She said that immediately after Sept. 11, “people were so worried and so terrified that the next attack was around the corner that they were willing to cede many of their civil liberties.”

She added: “The second half of the (President George W.) Bush term, Bush policies were not popular any longer. People were much more distant from the event of 9/11. Now they were more concerned with civil liberties and less concerned with the security threat. … I thought it was dramatically shown by what happened in that case.”

In choosing law clerks, Judge Scheindlin looks for varied experience like her own. She has been a prosecutor and a defense lawyer and was once politically active.

“I don’t want a kid who’s just done seven straight years of A’s at Harvard,” she said. “I want to know that they’ve done something, worked somewhere. Some experience. Some work. Some life. That makes for a rounded person.”

And should they someday become a judge, it makes them well prepared for the rare case of impact.

“That’s the day you live for, to do something that you believe is right and that is upheld as right and has a national impact, that’s great,” Judge Scheindlin said. “That’s why people want to be judges, I think, so they can make a difference.”

• Associated Press writers Tom Hays and Colleen Long contributed to this article.