Our federal judiciary is a vital component in the function of our government. Most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the federal courts system, but the reality is that the decisions made there affect most aspects of our lives.
Early this week, the Senate is expected to vote on cloture to move forward the nomination of Nina Pillard to the D.C. Circuit Court. Cloture is a procedural vote that is needed to allow the full Senate to vote on Pillard’s nomination. We appreciate that Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King voted in support of cloture for another recent nomination, that of Patricia Millett.
The D.C. Circuit Court is too important to us all to allow vacancies to hinder its work. This court has broad power to review federal regulations and is considered second only to the Supreme Court in terms of its stature. Today, three of its 11 seats are vacant. This causes delays in the judicial process. Why should we be forced to live with justice delayed when qualified candidates are available to fill those vacancies?
It is unacceptable to use procedural technicalities to block the Senate consideration of an eminently qualified nominee. And Pillard is an excellent candidate for the federal courts system.
As a nationally renowned law professor and lawyer who has litigated at all levels and throughout the country, from trial court to the Supreme Court, Pillard has a deep understanding of the Constitution and the role of the courts in our everyday lives. She has argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court, served as a top Department of Justice attorney and taught for 15 years at Georgetown University Law Center.
Pillard has earned the respect of her colleagues when it comes to her interpretation of the law. Lawyers appearing before the Supreme Court depend on Pillard’s assistance in preparing their arguments. The American Bar Association relied on the work of a committee that Pillard chaired during then-Judge Samuel Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Her wealth of experience has earned the endorsement of numerous high-ranking government lawyers, such as Department of Defense lawyers and Solicitors General.
Her track record is impressive. Pillard wrote the brief for the Solicitor General in United States v. Virginia, which opened up the Virginia Military Institute admissions to women. This landmark victory for President George H.W. Bush’s administration was an important case in the fight against gender discrimination. And in another successful case — Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs — Pillard argued alongside Viet Dinh of President George W. Bush’s administration in defense of the Family and Medical Leave Act. In an opinion written by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, the Supreme Court agreed with her position.
It is the constitutional duty of the president to make nominations to fill judicial vacancies. It is the job of the Senate to decide on those nominations. Collins and King did the right thing when they voted for cloture on the nomination of Millet. We urge them to do that again by voting in support of cloture for Pillard’s nomination.
Eliza Townsend is executive director of the Maine Women’s Lobby, which advocates on behalf of Maine’s 678,000 women and girls, focusing on economic security, freedom from violence, access to health care and freedom from discrimination.