President Obama will nominate two female lawyers and an African-American federal judge to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Tuesday, according to a White House official, in an effort to help reshape the federal judiciary before leaving office.
The president will nominate veteran appelate lawyer Patricia A. Millett; Georgetown University Law Center professor Cornelia T. L. Pillard; and Robert L. Wilkins, a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, according to the official, who asked not to be identified because the announcement had not been made yet.
It remains unclear whether Senate Republicans will accept the idea of approving the three judges in quick succession to fill the three vacancies on the D.C. Circuit, one of the nation's most influential courts. Late last month, the Senate confirmed Justice Department official Sri Srinivasan in a unanimous vote. Srinivasan’s appointment marked the first time since 2006 that the Senate has approved a presidential nominee to the D.C. Circuit.
Millett, Pillard and Wilkins are all well-experienced, but their nominations come at a time when Republicans are questioning the need for having 11 seats on the court.
Millett is a partner at the firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, and has litigated frequently before the Supreme Court as well as the federal courts of appeals. Pillard, who has worked at both the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and in the Solicitor General's office, was tenured at Georgetown in 2005. She continues to appear before the .the Supreme Court and serves as Faculty Co-Director of the Law Center’s Supreme Court Institute.
Wilkins was confirmed by the Senate for his current post without opposition in 2010. In addition to working at the firm Venable LLP in Washington, D.C, he worked nearly full time between 2000 and 2002 to help establish the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
"President Obama has bent over backwards to accommodate concerns of Senate Republicans, but has been met with unprecedented obstruction," Kendall added.