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Patrick L.
Democrat VT

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  • Nomination of Cornelia T. L. Pillard to Be United States Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia

    by Senator Patrick J. Leahy

    Posted on 2013-12-10

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    Read More about Nomination of Cornelia T. L. Pillard to Be United States Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia

    LEAHY. Mr. President, today, for the second time in a month, we are debating whether to allow a confirmation vote on the nomination of Nina Pillard to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Yesterday, we were finally able to vote on the nomination of Patricia Millett after many months of being filibustered by Senate Republicans. I am glad we are making more progress today on another exceptional nominee.



    The DC Circuit is often considered to be the second most important court in the Nation and should be operating at full strength. Today we will take a step towards making this court operate at full strength for the American people.

    In late November, a bipartisan majority of Senators voted in favor of moving to an up-or-down vote on Nina Pillard's nomination, but we fell short by three votes. The same efforts to remove the Republican blockade of this President's nominees to fill vacancies on the DC Circuit that allowed the Senate to confirm Patricia Millett earlier this week will similarly allow the Senate to move forward on Nina Pillard's nomination so she can be confirmed and get to work for the American people.

    Nina Pillard is an accomplished litigator whose work includes nine Supreme Court oral arguments, and briefs in more than 25 Supreme Court cases. She drafted the Federal Government's brief in United States v. Virginia, which after a 7-1 decision by the Supreme Court made history by opening the Virginia Military Institute's doors to female students and expanded educational opportunity for women across the country. Since then, hundreds of women have had the opportunity to attend VMI and go on to serve our country.

    Ms. Pillard has not only stood for equal opportunities for women but for men as well. In Nevada v. Hibbs, Ms. Pillard successfully represented a male employee of the State of Nevada who was fired when he tried to take unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act to care for his sick wife. In a 6-3 opinion authored by then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist, the Supreme Court ruled for her client, recognizing that the law protects both men and women in their caregiving roles within the family.

    She has also worked at the Department of Justice as the Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel, an office that advises on the most complex constitutional issues facing the executive branch. And prior to that, Ms. Pillard litigated numerous civil rights cases as an assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund. At Georgetown Law, Ms. Pillard teaches advanced courses on constitutional law and civil procedure, and co-directs the law school's Supreme Court Institute.

    She has earned the American Bar Association's highest possible ranking--Unanimously Well Qualified--to serve as a Federal appellate judge on the DC Circuit. She also has significant bipartisan support. Viet Dinh, the former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy under President George W. Bush, has written that ``Based on our long and varied professional experience together, I know that Professor Pillard is exceptionally bright, a patient and unbiased listener, and a lawyer of great judgment and unquestioned integrity . . . Nina has always been fair, reasonable, and sensible in her judgments . . . She is a fair-minded thinker with enormous respect for the law and for the limited, and essential, role of the federal appellate judge--qualities that make her well prepared to take on the work of a DC Federal Judge.'' Former FBI Director and Chief Judge of the Western District of Texas William Sessions has written that her ``rare combination of experience, both defending and advising government officials, and representing individuals seeking to vindicate their rights, would be especially valuable in informing her responsibilities as a judge.'' Nina Pillard has also received letters of support from 30 former members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including 8 retired generals; 25 former Federal prosecutors and other law enforcement officials; 40 Supreme Court practitioners, including Laurence Tribe and Carter Phillips, among many others.

    Despite having filled nearly half of law school classrooms for the last 20 years, women are grossly underrepresented on our Federal courts. We [[Page S8595]] need women on the Federal bench. A vote to end this filibuster is a vote to break yet another barrier and move in the historic direction of having our Federal appellate courts more accurately reflect the gender balance of the country.

    I commend President Obama on his nominations of highly qualified women such as Nina Pillard, Patricia Millett, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. In each of these women, the Senate has had the opportunity to vote to confirm women practicing at the pinnacle of the legal profession. Once the Senate confirmed Justice Kagan, the highest court in the land had more women than ever before serving on its bench. With the confirmation and appointment of Nina Pillard, the same will be true for what many consider to be the second highest court in the land, the DC Circuit, because she will be the fifth active female judge on the court. Never before have five women jurists actively served on that court at one time. I look forward to that moment and to further increasing the diversity of our federal bench.

    I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of ending the filibuster on this outstanding nominee. This Nation would be better off for Nina Pillard serving as a judge on the DC Circuit.

    Cloture Motion The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is on agreeing to the motion to invoke cloture on the Pillard nomination, upon reconsideration.

    Pursuant to rule XXII, the Chair lays before the Senate the pending cloture motion, which the clerk will state.

    The bill clerk read as follows: Cloture Motion We, the undersigned Senators, in accordance with the provisions of rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate, hereby move to bring to a close debate on the nomination of Cornelia T. L. Pillard, of the District of Columbia, to be United States Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit.

    Harry Reid, Patrick J. Leahy, Richard J. Durbin, John D. Rockefeller IV, Benjamin L. Cardin, Jon Tester, Sheldon Whitehouse, Mark R. Warner, Patty Murray, Mazie K. Hirono, Angus S. King, Jr., Barbara Boxer, Jeanne Shaheen, Robert Menendez, Bill Nelson, Debbie Stabenow, Richard Blumenthal.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. By unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum call has been waived.

    The question is, Is it the sense of the Senate that debate on the nomination of Cornelia T. L. Pillard, of the District of Columbia, to be United States Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit, shall be brought to a close, upon reconsideration? The yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule.

    The clerk will call the roll.

    The assistant legislative clerk called the roll.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Are there any other Senators in the Chamber desiring to vote? Mr. CORNYN. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the Senator from Texas (Mr. Cruz) and the Senator from Illinois (Mr. Kirk).

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