Civil Rights Groups Pushing Congress to Fill Vacant D.C. Circuit Judgeships

Courts 09.17,13

By Tamera Willis, a Leadership Conference Intern

Civil and human rights advocates have been pushing for the Senate to confirm President Obama’s three nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In June, the President nominated Cornelia “Nina” Pillard along with two other seasoned legal figures, Judge Robert L. Wilkins and Patricia Ann Millett. Wilkins currently serves on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, a position he was nominated and confirmed for without opposition by the Senate in 2010. Millett has earned a reputation as one of the nation’s finest appellate attorneys through work in the public and private sector.

The D.C. Circuit is considered the second-most significant court in the country, but with three out of 11 judicial seats currently empty the court’s caseload has become burdensome to the sitting judges. One of the three seats still open has been vacant since Chief Justice Roberts was elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005.

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary is set to vote Thursday on the confirmation of Pillard to the D.C. Circuit. As a nationally renowned law professor and appellate lawyer, Pillard has argued nine cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including the landmark case that opened the Virginia Military Institute to women (U.S. v. Virginia). Pillard has also served as an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice, advising the executive branch and developing an expertise in matters affecting law enforcement and national security.

In an advocacy letter urging senators to confirm Pillard, The Leadership Conference stated, “Ms. Pillard has shared her tremendous expertise in appellate litigation with the broader legal community. As co-director of the renowned Georgetown Supreme Court Litigation clinic, she has demonstrated an unbiased approach to the rule of law and provided pro-bono assistance to scores of lawyers preparing for arguments before the Supreme Court.”

The civil and human rights advocacy community urges senators to vote “yes” to confirm Pillard to report her out of committee and onto the Senate floor for action by the full Senate.