WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has approved Cornelia "Nina" Pillard for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

On Thursday, the committee voted 10-8, along party lines, advancing Pillard's nomination to the full Senate.

Pillard, along with Patricia Millett and Robert Leon Wilkins, were nominated to the federal appeals court by President Barack Obama in June.

At a hearing held in July, GOP senators reportedly grilled Pillard, who currently serves as a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. They mostly took aim at her academic writings because of her lack of judicial experience.

Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron issued a statement in response to the committee vote:

"We commend the majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee for supporting President Obama's nomination of Nina Pillard for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals," she said. "We are disappointed, but not surprised, that all of the committee's Republicans chose to put politics ahead of qualifications and opposed this outstanding nominee."

Aron is pushing for a "swift" yes-or-no vote by the full Senate on Pillard's nomination.

People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker agreed.

"Professor Pillard is an exceptionally qualified nominee. She has earned enormous respect from her colleagues across the ideological spectrum in her career as an appellate attorney, where she crafted the arguments that convinced the Supreme Court to open the Virginia Military Institute to women and joined the Bush administration in successfully defending the Family and Medical Leave Act," Baker said in a statement.

"Her national reputation as a supremely talented and consistently fair attorney is well-earned.

"We applaud the judiciary committee members who voted in support of this highly qualified nominee, and hope that the full Senate will review her qualifications and give her a fair yes-or-no confirmation vote."

However, Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, argues the D.C. Circuit is the "most underworked" appellate court in the country, and that the President should be using scarce federal dollars to fill the courts that have "true" judicial emergencies.

"The only reason for the President to put a radical liberal like Nina Pillard on the D.C. Circuit is to increase the odds that his dramatic expansions of federal power will go unchecked," Severino said in a statement.

"That may be good for President Obama, but it's not good for America."

Last month, Millett, who heads Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP's Supreme Court practice and co-heads the firm's national appellate practice, made it through the judiciary committee -- also on a 10-8 vote.

No timeline has been set for a committee vote on Wilkins' confirmation. Wilkins, who has served as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia since 2010, faced the Senate panel last week.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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