Pillard Faces Senate Vote for Court of Appeals Seat
Published: Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 02:09
The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on Georgetown University Law Center professor Cornelia “Nina” Pillard’s confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Thursday.
To be confirmed, Pillard must be approved by the committee, after which she will be presented to the full Senate, where she must receive at least 51 votes out of 100.
Obama’s nomination of Pillard, a graduate of Yale College and Harvard University Law School, has spurred discussion on both sides of the aisle due to Pillard’s strong views on abortion and women’s rights.
Prior to joining the Georgetown faculty, Pillard worked for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and served as a Department of Justice attorney. She is best known for her legal work in support of women’s rights in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1996, she won on behalf of the U.S. in United States v. Virginia, which mandated that women be allowed to enroll in the Virginia Military Institute, the last all-male military college. She also successfully defended the Family and Medical Leave Act in 2003 and broadened it to apply to state employees.
Pillard’s pro-choice views and objections to abstinence-only education brought up concerns from conservative committee members during her July confirmation hearing, though several parties wrote letters of support, including representatives from VMI, the Women’s Bar Association and Georgetown. The letters praised Pillard’s support of women’s rights, scholarship and grasp of the law.
“I know that professor Pillard is exceptionally bright, a patient and unbiased listener and a lawyer of great judgment and unquestioned integrity,” Georgetown Law professor Viet Dinh wrote in his letter of support.
GULC Dean William Treanor agreed and commended Pillard’s scholarship.
“She is a beloved teacher and mentor, diligent in service to Georgetown and the larger community and a productive and highly respected scholar,” Treanor wrote.
Anti-abortion groups and conservative Republicans, however, have been outspoken critics of Obama’s choice for the D.C. court, primarily for her pro-abortion rights views. In an online post, Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council called Pillard “crazy” and “outrageous.” In particular, Perkins accused Obama of trying to slide Pillard past the usual confirmation stages by nominating her over the summer.
“America can’t afford to give a lifetime appointment to a radical ideologue,” Perkins wrote.
Georgetown University College Democrats President Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15) said he fully backed Pillard for the nomination.
“We really think that she would make a great addition to the D.C. Circuit Court,” Tezel said. “She has shown — in the same spirit as a Ruth Bader Ginsburg, if you will — the kind of tenacity to advocate for gender equality that I think a lot of our members really want to see in the federal courts.”
Georgetown University College Republicans did not respond to requests for comment.