Confirmation Hearing: Nina Pillard

photo credit to ThinkProgress

In my email today from Drew Courtney, Director of  Communications at PFAW, was the following:

One item that didn’t get the attention it deserved during the hearings of DC Circuit nominee Nina Pillard today is her role leading Georgetown University Law Center’s Supreme Court Institute. The SCI offers its moot courts as a public service, at no charge and irrespective of the positions taken by counsel, reflecting a core commitment to the quality of Supreme Court advocacy in all cases.

Members of the Supreme Court Bar, including Carter Phillips, Andrew Pincus, Lawrence Robbins and Charles Rothfeld (all attorneys in the Solicitor General’s office under President Ronald Reagan) cited Pillard’s work leading the Supreme Court Institute in the letter they wrote calling for her confirmation.

http://www.judgingtheenvironment.org/library/letters/Pillard-SCT-Bar-Letter-7-17-2013.pdf

“Professor Pillard is also Faculty Co-Director of the Supreme Court Institute (SCI), a unique project at Georgetown University Law Center, dedicated to improving practice before the Supreme Court. The SCI recruits professors and attorneys with experience in Supreme Court litigation to act as mock justices to help prepare lawyers for oral argument in the Court. The SCI offers its services impartially on a first-come, first-served basis to advocates with upcoming cases in the Supreme Court, and it has become so popular in recent years that it assisted lawyers in every case argued in the Court’s last Term. Chief Justice Roberts, Justices Scalia and Ginsburg, and many others from the bench and bar have praised the work of the SCI in contributing to the quality of advocacy. Most of us have participated as advocates and/or Justices at SCI moot court sessions. Over more than a decade, Professor Pillard has personally mooted dozens of cases, whether the advocate is a first-time lawyer or former Solicitor General, doing her best to help each advocate develop and present the best argument possible to the Court, regardless of the issue in the case or the ideological position of the party being represented.

We believe that Professor Pillard would bring to the D.C. Circuit unquestioned professional integrity and intellect, a breadth of experience, and dedication to fairness and the rule of law. We urge her confirmation.”

Ms. Pillard is facing an uphill battle getting her nomination out of the Senate Judiciary committee. Nina Pillard is being nominated for an open position on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. This court has exclusive jurisdiction over many vital national security challenges and hears the bulk of appeals from the major regulatory agencies of the federal government. Aside from the U.S. Supreme Court, it resolves more constitutional questions involving separation of powers and executive prerogatives than any court in the country.  As such, it’s one of the busiest circuit courts.

Some of the GOP’s biggest nay-sayers sit on the Senate Judiciary committee (Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Jeff Sessions, Lindsay Graham, John Cornyn, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Jeff Flake ), and thus far, they’ve been very successful at crippling the DC Circuit court’s ability to handle some of our nation’s most challenging cases.  At today’s hearing, Republican committee members zeroed in and fixated on an article she wrote in 1997 that suggested that abstinence-only sex education may violate the equal protection rights of women.

Instead of demeaning and painting Ms. Pillard as a mere characture, maybe Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee should check in with President George W. Bush’s Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh, who says of Pillard “…  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 would make her well prepared to take on the work of a DC Circuit judge. I am confident that she would approach the judicial task of applying laws to facts in a fair and meticulous manner.”

GOP Senators should rethink their premise.  Professor Pillard’s academic writings actually show her openness to viewpoints raised by abortion opponents.

  • Professor Pillard consulted anti-abortion advocate Helen Alvaré in writing her article ‘Other Reproductive Choices’ to ensure her work considered all sides of the public debate on women’s reproductive health. In fact, Professor Alvaré is listed in the article’s acknowledgements.
  • Pillard wrote, “Feminists for Life (FFL), a nonprofit organization declaring itself in favor of equality for women and against abortion, makes some claims that resonate with those of some pro-choice feminists, and which should be common ground in the reproductive rights battles.”  (Pillard, Our Other Reproductive Choices, p. 981)

Moreover, there have been multiple Circuit Court nominees who have written extensively on controversial issues such as abortion from a anti-choice point of view, who went on to be confirmed with strong support from Republicans.

  •  William Pryor, nominated to Eleventh Circuit, had called Roe v Wade the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law,” but was led to say that even though he strongly disagreed with Roe, he would act in accordance with it if confirmed. He was confirmed.
  • Michael McConnell, nominated to the Tenth Circuit, said Roe was wrongly decided and urged the Supreme Court to overturn it.  He called for a constitutional amendment to protect the rights of the unborn. He also applauded a federal judge for refusing to convict anti-abortion protestors, even though they had clearly violated the law, because of his sympathetic reading of the defendants’ motives. He was unanimously confirmed.
  • J. Leon Holmes, an Arkansas district court nominee, had argued that abortion should be banned even in case of rape because pregnancy from rape is as uncommon as “snowfall in Miami,” and had written that wives should be submissive to their husbands. He was confirmed.
  • Janice Rogers Brown, also nominated to the DC Circuit, had made multiple provocative remarks in speeches, such as referring to the New Deal as the start of a Socialist movement. She admitted that she was trying to be provocative, but assured the committee at her hearing that she “would follow precedent.” She was confirmed.

If we want something other than continual obstruction, WE need to take just a few minutes from our day, and let our Senators know where we stand and urge them to take the action we support.  It’s up to us.  This morning, I took the time to send an email to both Senator Reid and Senator Heller asking them both to actively support and vote for her confirmation.  I also took the time to email each GOP Senator on the Judiciary Committee asking them to vote for her confirmation.  I hope you’ll do the same by clicking the above links for Senators Reid and Heller and asking them for their vote of confirmation.  Or, if you’re an out-of-state reader, you can find a link to your Senator’s email contact form HERE.

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President Obama Nominates Four Distinguished Women to Serve as Federal Judges

— by Chris Kang, Senior Counsel to the President, May 17, 2013

Yesterday, President Obama demonstrated his continued commitment to increasing the diversity of our federal judiciary, so that it better reflects the nation it serves. He nominated four distinguished women to serve on four different courts—women who not only have the necessary intellect, integrity and fair-mindedness to serve as federal judges, but whose nominations also represent important “firsts” in their state or district:

  • If confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Judge Carolyn McHugh would be the first woman from Utah to serve on that court.  Currently, the Tenth Circuit only has one woman judge serving among its nine active members.
  • Pamela Reeves and Elizabeth Wolford would be the first women to serve as district court judges in the Eastern District of Tennessee and Western District of New York, respectively, if confirmed.
  • Debra Brown would be the first African-American district court judge to serve in the Northern District of Mississippi and the first African-American woman to serve as an Article III judge in the entire state of Mississippi, if confirmed.

President Obama’s judicial nominees already have broken the gender barrier in circuit courts in six states, as well as nine district courts, and have shattered dozens of glass ceilings for minorities.  And on Monday, the Senate will consider the nomination of Michael McShane to be a district court judge in Oregon; if confirmed, he would be the fifth openly gay judge appointed by President Obama, compared to only one in history before.

These “firsts” are important, not because these judges will consider cases differently, but because a judiciary that better resembles our nation instills even greater confidence in our justice system, and because these judges will serve as role models for generations of lawyers to come.

Finally, I wanted to note another “first” yesterday: for the first time, President Obama has nominated more district court judges than President George W. Bush had at the same point in his presidency.  While a faster pace of judicial retirements has led to a greater number of vacancies—many still without nominees—this record demonstrates the strength of the President’s commitment to addressing the judicial vacancy crisis in our country.  He will continue to work with home state Senators from both parties to identify and consider candidates for the federal judiciary.  We urge the Senate to consider yesterday’s nominees—and all judicial nominees—without unnecessary delay.


In related news:

If you’ve been paying any kind of attention to what’s been going on in the Senate, the GOP (Goons Opposing Progress) have found a new way of  obstructing nominations from moving forward for a vote — at the committee level — by failing to show up for committee meetings so quorums aren’t met.  That was the case for nominations to fill EPA and Labor.  But finally, on Thursday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the nomination of Gina McCarthy to head the EPA on a party-line vote, 10-8. On the same day, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee voted 12-10, also along party lines, to advance Labor Secretary nominee Thomas Perez.

The number of vacancies in the Judiciary has reached crisis mode and the GOP is doing their darnedest to prevent the President from filling any openings with “Liberal” justices.

How the Confirmation Process Works

  1. The confirmation process begins when the President selects a nominee for a vacant judgeship.  Traditionally, the President selects a nominee in consultation with the Senators who represent the state in which the judge will serve.  Senators typically have their own methods of evaluating potential nominees, and can signal their approval or disapproval of a nominee through the blue slip process.
  2. The President then refers the nominee to the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The Judiciary Committee evaluates the nominee by gathering information, running a background check, and reviewing the record and qualifications of the nominee.
  3. The Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the nominee.  Witnesses present testimony on the nominee.  Some of the witnesses favor and others oppose the nomination.  The nominee also answers questions from the Committee.  Senators who oppose a nominee can attempt to delay or derail a nomination by requesting additional information or additional time as a hearing approaches.
  4. The Judiciary Committee votes on whether to report the nominee to the full Senate.  If the Committee does report the nominee, they can submit the nomination with a favorable recommendation, an unfavorable recommendation, or no recommendation at all.  Senators who oppose the nomination can attempt to delay a nomination by using procedural tactics to prevent a committee vote.
  5. The full Senate has the opportunity to debate the nomination.  The Senate debates until a Senator asks for unanimous consent to end debate and move to a vote on the nominee.  If unanimous consent is granted, the Senate votes on the nominee, with a majority vote required for confirmation.  Any Senator can refuse to grant unanimous consent.  This situation is known as a hold.
  6. If any Senator objects to unanimous consent, then a cloture motion must be filed in order to end debate and move to a vote.  A cloture motion requires 60 votes to pass.  If 60 Senators support cloture, the full Senate will vote on the nomination, with a majority required for confirmation.  If fewer than 60 Senators support cloture, debate continues and a confirmation vote cannot occur.  This is known as a filibuster.
  7. Once the Senate holds a confirmation vote, with a majority voting to confirm, the nominee becomes a Federal Judge.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has been in the news of late complaining that too many judicial openings have gone vacant for far too long in Texas.  Well, maybe Sen. Cornyn should take a look at a look in the mirror. Refer to step one above, the process for approving a new district court judge, per longstanding tradition, begins with a senator forwarding recommendations from his or her state to the president.  Sen. Cornyn has failed to take any such action for years.

So as you can see, in the case of the Judiciary, there are three opportunities to gum up the works:  (1) Shrug off their duty to propose any judiciary candidates to the President, (2) Fail to show up for committee meetings such that the committee has no quorum to allow a vote, and (3) if all else fails, just filibuster whoever does manage to make it out of committee.

S47: Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013

Since its original passage in 1994, VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) has dramatically enhanced our nation’s response to violence against girls and women, boys and men. More victims report domestic violence to the police and the rate of non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has decreased by 64%.

VAWA provides for a coordinated community approach, improving collaboration between law enforcement and victim services providers to better meet the needs of victims. These comprehensive and cost-effective programs not only save lives, they also save money. In fact, VAWA saved nearly $12.6 billion in net averted social costs in just its first six years.

A significant number of Senators appreciate the savings in terms of both social and financial costs, but twenty two members of the right-wing clearly see no value in continuing such efforts.  S47—the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013—passed the Senate on February 12th with a 78/22 vote.  Here’s the list of Senators who prefer to escalate the war on women:

  • Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) ….  up for re-election in 2014
  • Sen. James Risch (R-ID)   ….  up for re-election in 2014
  • Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS)  ….  up for re-election in 2014
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)  ….  up for re-election in 2014
  • Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE)  ….  up for re-election in 2014
  • Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK)  ….  up for re-election in 2014
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)  ….  up for re-election in 2014
  • Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)  ….  up for re-election in 2014
  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)  ….  up for re-election in 2014
  • Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY)  ….  up for re-election in 2014
  • Sen. John Boozman (R-AR)  ….  up for re-election in 2016
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)  ….  up for re-election in 2016
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)  ….  up for re-election in 2016
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)  ….  up for re-election in 2016
  • Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO)  ….  up for re-election in 2016
  • Sen. Thomas Coburn (R-OK)  ….  up for re-election in 2016
  • Sen. John Thune (R-SC)  ….  up for re-election in 2016
  • Sen. Mike Lee (R-TX)  ….  up for re-election in 2016
  • Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)  ….  up for re-election in 2016
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)  ….  up for re-election in 2018
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-TX)  ….  up for re-election in 2018
  • Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY)  ….  up for re-election in 2018

22-VAWA-NOs

Get to know these faces ladies.  It’s time to watch closely,  just exactly how they vote on issues near and dear to our hearts.  If, through their words, their actions and their votes, they’re showing us that WE have NO value, then it’s clearly time that WE, as women, show them that they have no value and that WE no longer want them in decision and leadership positions where they would be able to impose their lack of values on us.  Two faces in particular are quite disappointing, Sen. Tim Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio.  Apparently they’ve clearly joined the “I’ve got mine, good luck getting yours” club.

Reauthorization of the law, first passed in 1994, now heads to the House, where swift passage is far from guaranteed. House Republicans killed the legislation last year, though Democrats have now dropped some of the provisions that drew GOP objections, including expanded visas for abused immigrants.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/rubio-gop-white-house-hopefuls-oppose-violence-women-act-article-1.1263096#ixzz2KpTyVbqF