Senate Committee Approves D.C. Circuit Nomination of Nina Pillard; Obama Announces New Judicial Selections

September 19, 2013

by Jeremy Leaming

Along a party-line vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee today approved the nomination of Nina Pillard to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The nomination must still be considered by the entire Senate.

Ranking Member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) voted against the nomination, again noting his wobbly claim that the 11-member D.C. Circuit, one of the most powerful appellate courts in the land, does not need the vacancies filled. Grassley has been pushing a bill that aims to cut seats from the D.C. Circuit, effectively leaving its right-wing tilt in place.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) lauded today’s vote, saying “Pillard’s character and qualifications are unassailable.” A press release from Leahy’s office also noted that Pillard, a professor of law at Georgetown University, has argued “nine cases before the Supreme Court as well as drafted the government’s successful argument in the landmark Supreme Court case, United States v. Virginia, which opened the doors to the Virginia Military Institute for female cadets.”

Despite efforts by some right-wing pundits to distort Pillard’s legal work and career, she has received support of Republicans, former law enforcement and military officials, conservatives, and many leading members of the Supreme Court bar from both parties.

Several public interest groups lauded today’s Senate Committee action and called for a swift floor-vote of Pillard’s nomination.

Leslie Proll, director of LDF’s Washington Office said, “We trust the Senate will recognize that Nina is a tremendously qualified nominee, who would be an incredible asset to the D.C. Circuit.”

National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) Co-President Marcia Greenberger, noted that Pillard’s “impressive legal career includes two tours in the U.S. Department of Justice and 15 years teaching at the Georgetown University Law Center. In addition, she currently brings her legal acumen and expertise to her role as Co-Director of Georgetown’s Supreme Court Institute, which prepares lawyers for oral argument before the Supreme Court on a pro bono basis. She is a legal superstar who would bring extraordinary skills to the Court, including her deep background on legal protections for women.”

There are more than 90 vacancies on the federal bench and for most of President Obama’s time in office vacancies have hovered near 80. Today the president announced 8 more judicial nominations, including Diane J. Humetawa to the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. If confirmed, Humetawa would become the first Native American female judge in the nation’s history.

The National Native American Bar Association lauded Humetawa’s nomination, calling it “historic.”

For information on federal court vacancies and nominations see JudicialNominations.org.