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Millett's nomination clears committee hurdle, now heads to full Senate

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Aug 1, 2013

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- Patricia Millett, one of three nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has made it through the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In a roll call vote held Thursday morning, committee members sent Millett's nomination to the full Senate. The 10-8 vote was along party lines, with all GOP senators voting against her nomination.

Millett currently heads Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP's Supreme Court practice and co-heads the firm's national appellate practice.

She also served for 15 years in the U.S. Department of Justice -- first as an appellate attorney in its civil division and then in the Solicitor General's Office.

Over the course of her career, she has argued a total of 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and about 36 in federal appeals courts.

"Ms. Millett has a brilliant mind, a gift for clear, persuasive writing, and a genuine zeal for the rule of law," wrote a group of former U.S. solicitors general, including Kenneth W. Starr, who received the most publicity for his tenure as Independent Counsel during former President Bill Clinton's term.

"Equally important, she is unfailingly fair-minded."

During the committee's hearing, held last month, there was no criticism of Millett herself -- even Republicans noted she had strong credentials -- only of the D.C. Circuit and President Barack Obama's plan to "pack" the court.

Currently, there are three vacancies on the court.

If confirmed, Millett would fill one.

Cornelia "Nina" Pillard and Robert Leon Wilkins, who also were nominated by Obama in June, would fill the others, if confirmed.

Earlier this week, a coalition of more than 90 groups urged senators to hold yes-or-no votes on whether to confirm all three nominees.

But some argue that the three vacant seats don't need filling.

Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, sides with Republicans.

"The D.C. Circuit is the most under-worked appellate court in the country and, as one of the court's judges said, there would not be enough work to go around if any additional judges were added," she said in a statement Thursday, following the judiciary committee's vote. "Democrats insisted the D.C. Circuit needed no more judges in 2005, and its workload has only continued to fall since then.

"This is clearly a partisan court-packing plan designed to turn a highly regarded court into a political rubber stamp for President Obama's unconstitutional regulatory rampage.

"The D.C. Circuit does not need new judges, regardless of party, philosophy or background. Period. Especially not when every other branch of government is searching for more ways to cut costs."

Severino said until Democrats agree to provide yes-or-no votes for all judicial nominees, the GOP is "more than justified" in applying the same rules Democrats used when they engaged in unprecedented obstruction of Republican nominees.

Glenn Sugameli, who has headed the Judging the Environment judicial nominations project since 2001, said Thursday Severino's reliance on a selective quote from an unnamed judge ignores the fact that the court needs all of its 11 active judgeships, as reiterated by the Judicial Conference of the U.S. Judgeship Recommendations and Draft Legislation in April.

"Ms. Severino absurdly claims that filling existing vacancies would be 'a court packing plan designed to turn a highly regarded court into a political rubber stamp for President Obama's unconstitutional regulatory rampage.' She cannot explain how this claim relates to Patricia Millett's nomination, which no senator opposes on the merits and which is endorsed by Robin S. Conrad, a retired Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice-President who had a 30-year tenure at the National Chamber Litigation Center, the public policy law firm of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States," Sugameli said in a statement.

The Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform owns Legal Newsline.

"If the GOP were 'applying the same rules Democrats used,' as Ms. Severino claims, that would require approving President Obama's three pending D.C. Circuit nominees for a total of four, including one to the court's 11th seat, just as a Democratic Senate did for President George W. Bush," Sugameli said.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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