Today, the Senate is scheduled to decide whether Nina Pillard, the second of three outstanding nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals to the District of Columbia Circuit pending in the Senate, should get a confirmation vote. Nina Pillard is unquestionably qualified for the federal bench: she is a law professor at Georgetown University Law Center with significant litigation experience, including having written the winning briefs that persuaded the Supreme Court to open the Virginia Military Institute to women in 1997 and convincing the Court to extend the full protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to state workers in 2003. As her colleague Viet Dinh — who argued the 2003 FMLA case on the same side, on behalf of the Bush Administration — wrote [PDF], Professor Pillard is “exceptionally bright, a patient and unbiased listener, and a lawyer of great judgment and unquestioned integrity.”
But this vote follows on the heels of the filibuster of the first of the three pending D.C. Circuit nominees, Patricia Millett — and seven months after the filibuster of another highly qualified woman nominated to the same court, Caitlin Halligan, who has since withdrawn her nomination. It is shameful that a minority of the Senate would refuse to even hold a confirmation vote on three tremendously qualified female nominees, to a court on which only five women have served in the past 120 years. And it’s even more shameful that the pretext for doing so is the specious assertion that the D.C. Circuit — with its docket of complex administrative appeals and nationally important cases — really does not need to fill the three current vacancies. As those wiser than I have written before, this argument doesn’t pass the laugh test.
The short answer is that all three nominees to the D.C. Circuit are needed, and deserve up-or-down votes. Although some senators erred in voting against Caitlin Halligan and Patricia Millett, there is always room for second chances. The Senate can start over by voting for cloture on Nina Pillard’s nomination, today. Because justice demands it.