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Judicial Nominations

A Tale of Four Judges: First Confirmations Since January 13

There has been a troubling dearth of confirmation votes in the Senate since Robert Wilkins was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit on January 13. Since then, the number of vacancies on the federal bench has swelled, and nominees have piled up on the calendar waiting for floor votes. Finally some votes were shaken loose today, but it was a long time coming. Here’s how it started:

On February 12, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed cloture on four district court nominees, who had been originally nominated last June and have been waiting for votes since October.  Before the President’s Day recess, Senator Mark Pryor asked for unanimous consent to proceed to confirmation votes on two nominees to Arkansas district courts, one of whom was in the group of nominees for whom cloture was filed. In particular, Pryor noted that the filing deadline for candidates running for the state court judgeship currently held by one of the nominees opened on February 24, creating a disadvantage for potential candidates if the nominee were not confirmed before that. Senator Charles Grassley objected, and the Senate left for the President’s Day Recess without confirming anyone. Read more »

Another "Firsts" Judge Nominated Yesterday

Yesterday, President Obama nominated Staci Michelle Yandle to a seat on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. If confirmed, she would be the first openly gay judge to serve in the Seventh Circuit (comprised of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin), and the first African-American to serve on the Southern District of Illinois. Read more »

Robert Wilkins’ Nomination Advances To The Senate Floor

Yesterday, the Senate voted 55-38-1 to allow an up-or-down vote on the nomination of Judge Robert Wilkins to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. This welcome development will be followed by thirty hours of debate and then final consideration by the full Senate.

Judge Wilkins will be the third of three recent outstanding nominees to the D.C. Circuit to receive a vote before the full Senate. All three nominees were originally filibustered.   Read more »

Why Nina Pillard Deserves an Up-or-Down Vote

Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on whether or not to move to a confirmation vote on the nomination of Cornelia (Nina) Pillard to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Nina Pillard is the second of three exceptionally qualified nominees to the D.C. Circuit pending before the Senate. She has had a remarkable legal career, checking every box of excellence and achievement. She has a broad spectrum of legal experience, having litigated at every level of the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, where she has argued nine cases and briefed dozens more. She served two tours in the Department of Justice, in the Solicitor General’s office and the Office of Legal Counsel. Currently, she is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, where she both teaches and serves a Co-Director of the Supreme Court Institute, which prepares lawyers for oral argument.

In addition to her stellar qualifications and extraordinary experience, however, Nina Pillard’s career has an additional outstanding characteristic: she has been involved in two of the most significant recent Supreme Court cases dealing with women’s legal equality. First, she wrote the winning briefs in the case that opened the Virginia Military Institute to women. After the George H.W. Bush Administration first challenged the school’s male-only admissions policy, she wrote the briefs on behalf of the Clinton Administration that convinced the Supreme Court to strike it down under the Equal Protection Clause. Nina Pillard’s role in the VMI case has earned her the support of VMI alumnae, the former VMI superintendent (who initially opposed the admission of women), and over thirty former military officials [PDF]. Read more »

Cloture Filed On Nina Pillard

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed cloture on Georgetown Law Professor Nina Pillard, one of three pending nominees to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Professor Pillard is an exceptionally well-qualified nominee. She has litigated numerous cases before the Supreme Court, including the landmark case that opened the Virginia Military Institute to female students and the case extending the protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to state employees. Professor Pillard is a widely-respected constitutional scholar who has the enthusiastic support of her peers and colleagues, including Viet Dinh, a former Bush Administration official. She serves on Georgetown’s Supreme Court Institute, which prepares litigators scheduled to argue before the highest tribunal in the country. She received the ABA’s highest rating, unanimously “well qualified," reflecting her stellar qualifications. Read more »

Senate Cloture Vote on Patricia Millett Today

Today, the Senate is scheduled to decide whether Patricia Millett, the first of three outstanding nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals to the District of Columbia Circuit, should get a confirmation vote. Ms. Millett’s qualifications are exceptional – she is a nationally renowned appellate litigator with 32 Supreme Court arguments and more accolades and endorsements that I can list here –as even some Senators who are arguing against allowing an up-or-down vote readily admit. As Senator Ted Cruz stated at her Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, however, the question of whether or not this extraordinary candidate can get a confirmation vote is a “broader battle.” Read more »

Cloture Filed on DC Circuit Nominee Patricia A. Millett

Yesterday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed a cloture petition on the nomination of several executive branch nominees, including Katherine Archuleta to be the Director of the Office of Personnel Management and Congressman Mel Watt to be the Director of the Federal Housing Agency, and one judicial nominee: Patricia A. Millett to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Ms. Millett is the first of three outstanding nominees to this important court to be considered by the full Senate. A highly respected appellate lawyer, Ms. Millett has argued 32 cases before the Supreme Court – more than any other woman, save one. Read more »

Ten Things You Should Know About DC Circuit Nominee Nina Pillard

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on the nomination of law professor Cornelia (Nina) Pillard to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. There has been a lot of misinformation swirling around about this highly qualified nominee since Professor Pillard’s confirmation hearing at the end of July. But when you look at Nina Pillard’s actual record, it is immediately apparent that she is tremendously qualified to sit on this important court – and should be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Here are just ten facts that make the case:

  1. She helped open VMI to women. Professor Pillard wrote the briefs in United States v. Virginia, a case originally filed by the George H.W. Bush Administration. Professor Pillard’s arguments persuaded the Supreme Court to open the Virginia Military Institute to women, ending one of the last male-only admissions policies at a state college. Read an op-ed about Professor Pillard from a VMI alumna here.
  2. She protected the Family & Medical Leave Act. Professor Pillard argued Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs before the Supreme Court, alongside Department of Justice officials from the George W. Bush administration. Their defense of the Family and Medical Leave Act successfully vindicated a state employee’s right to take unpaid leave to care for his ill wife. Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote the majority opinion.

Senate Confirms Two Judges

Yesterday, the Senate confirmed two judges to seats on the Southern District of New York. Valerie Caproni was confirmed 73-24, while Vernon Broderick was confirmed by voice vote. Read more »

Federal Judicial Nominations: the August Recess Edition

The United States Senate has essentially closed down until after Labor Day. Before it adjourned yesterday, Judge Raymond Chen was unanimously confirmed to the Federal Circuit, and votes were scheduled on two district court nominees in September. This leaves a total of 11 judicial nominations ready for a vote, including DC Circuit nominee Patricia A. Millett, who was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. A number of other female nominees, including Nina Pillard, also nominated to the D.C. Circuit, are expected to be ready for floor votes in September. Read more »