Reid: GOP using 'convenient but flawed' arguments to hamstring D.C. Circuit

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Oct 30, 2013

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke on the importance of confirming Patricia Millett, one of President Barack Obama's nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Reid, D-Nev., made an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, telling his fellow senators of her personal story and "professional dedication."

Millett currently heads Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld LLP's Supreme Court practice and co-heads the firm's national appellate practice. She was nominated in June, along with Cornelia "Nina" Pillard and Robert Leon Wilkins, to the federal appeals court.

She has argued more than 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

"But Patricia Millett's professional credentials are matched by her personal integrity and determination," Reid said. "She is a military spouse and mother of two who argued a case before the Supreme Court while her husband, who served in the Navy, was deployed in Afghanistan. And Ms. Millett has been a literacy tutor for two decades, and volunteers at her church's homeless shelter.

"She has the support of a variety of law enforcement officials, legal professionals and military organizations from across the political spectrum. Her colleagues have called her fair-minded, principled and exceptionally gifted, with unwavering integrity."

Reid said it is "truly a shame" that Republicans would filibuster such a qualified nominee for "unrelated political reasons."

On Monday, Reid filed cloture on Millett's nomination. She made it out of a Senate committee on a 10-8 vote in August, but her nomination has stalled since.

Cloture is the only procedure by which the Senate can vote to place a time limit on consideration of a bill or other matter -- in this case, a judicial nomination -- and thereby overcome a filibuster.

Under the cloture rule, the Senate may limit consideration of a pending matter to 30 additional hours, but only by a vote of three-fifths of the full Senate, normally 60 votes.

Reid, who is trying to force a vote sometime this week, argues that the D.C. Circuit is functioning "far below its full complement of judges."

Currently, only eight of the court's 11 seats are full.

"Republicans claim that filling the three remaining vacancies on the D.C. Circuit would amount to court packing. But I can't think of anything more ridiculous," he said Wednesday.

"Circuit court nominees, including nominees for the D.C. Circuit, have waited seven times longer for confirmation under President Obama than they did under President Bush. It's no mystery why we have a judicial vacancy crisis in this country.

"Making nominations to vacant judgeships is not court-packing. It's the President's job."

Reid said Republicans are using "convenient but flawed" political arguments to hamstring the D.C. Circuit and deny highly qualified nominees like Millett a fair up-or-down vote.

"Patricia Millett deserves better," he said. "She deserves a return to the days when all senators, including Republicans, took their duty to advise and consent seriously.

"She deserves a return to the days when qualified nominees were guaranteed a fair confirmation process devoid of political games."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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