Bench Memos

D.C. Circuit Nominee Cornelia Pillard—Part 1

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing for next Wednesday, July 24, on President Obama’s nomination of Georgetown law professor Cornelia (“Nina”) T. Pillard to a seat on the D.C. Circuit. The hearing would come a mere seven weeks (50 days, to be precise) after Obama’s simultaneous nominations of Pillard, Patricia Millett, and Robert L. Wilkins to three D.C. Circuit vacancies, barely five weeks after the committee received Pillard’s Senate questionnaire response (available, without the voluminous attachments, here), and a mere two weeks after Millett’s hearing.

The rush on these nominees seems designed to prevent a careful review of their records. Obama himself has taken forever to make nominations to the D.C. Circuit, and that court remains underworked, so it is difficult to see the justification for the sudden rush. Further, committee staffers have been swamped in recent weeks with work on the immigration bill as well as with tending to the Supreme Court’s end-of-term rulings, so there has been very little time available to prepare for the hearings.

In addition to her brief-writing, Pillard has an extensive record of law-review articles, speeches and other public statements. Merely listing them consumes nearly 20 pages of her questionnaire response. There is no reason to expect that committee staffers will have been able to give her record the thorough review that it deserves.

For context, compare the proposed 50 days from Pillard’s nomination to her hearing with the nomination-to-hearing periods for President George W. Bush’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit:

John Roberts—630 days

Miguel Estrada—505 days

Brett Kavanaugh—277 days

Thomas Griffith—190 days

Janice Rogers Brown—89 days

Peter Keisler—33 days

Although the Keisler example might seem to provide some support for the ultra-rapid scheduling of the Pillard hearing, there are a few points worth noting: First, committee Democrats objected vigorously to the “astonishing and inexplicable speed” of the Keisler hearing, and for the remaining 2-1/2 years of the Bush administration they prevented any final committee action on Keisler’s nomination. Second, Keisler, as a practicing attorney rather than an academic, had a much, much smaller record of articles, speeches, and public statements to review; his listing of them in his Senate questionnaire response took less than a page. Third, Keisler’s hearing did not follow immediately on the heels of another D.C. Circuit nominee’s initial hearing. (The previous initial hearing had been more than two years earlier; Kavanaugh had a second hearing about seven weeks before Keisler’s hearing.) Fourth, the committee had reviewed Keisler’s record when it approved his 2003 nomination to be Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division.

Fortunately, as we will see in further posts, it is not necessary to dig deep into Pillard’s record to discover what a left-wing ideologue she is.

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