President Barack Obama today formally nominated three lawyers to fill slots on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, introducing the candidates in remarks in the Rose Garden and calling on the U.S. Senate to give each nominee a vote.
Standing next to the president, the three nominees: Patricia Millett of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins and Cornelia "Nina" Pillard, a Georgetown University Law Center professor.
Obama didn't exactly strike a bipartisan tone in his remarks, which lasted about 15 minutes. The president chided Senate republicans for delaying votes on judicial candidates and, in some cases, blocking nominations. Obama's first pick for the D.C. Circuit, Caitlin Halligan, languished in the Senate. She withdrew her name in March.
"Too much of the peoples' business is at stake," Obama said today. "Our legal framework depends on timely confirmation of judicial nominees, and nowhere is this more apparent than with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals."
The D.C. Circuit, Obama said, repeating an oft-said line, is regularly considered the second most important court in the country based on a case load that includes national security disputes, campaign finance cases and workers' rights matters. "The court's decisions impact almost every aspect of our lives," Obama said.
Obama's second pick for the D.C. Circuit, Sri Srinivasan, principal deputy solicitor general at the U.S. Justice Department, was confirmed in May—the first appointment to the 11-judge appellate court in seven years.
"I'm hopeful that we can now build on that progress," Obama said.
Wilkins, a former Venable partner, has served on the Washington federal trial bench since 2010. Millett, who sought appointment under Obama to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, leads Akin's appellate team and is among the top of female lawyers in the country with the most number of cases argued in the Supreme Court. Pillard teaches civil procedure and constitutional law at Georgetown.
"These are no slouches. These are no hacks," Obama said. "They are incredibly accomplished lawyers by all accounts."
Obama said "there's no reason, aside from politics, for Republicans to block these individuals form getting an up or down vote." When he brought up the Republican argument that the simultaneous nomination of three lawyers to the D.C. Circuit amounted to "court packing," there was laughter in the audience.
"These are open seats. The constitution demands that I nominate qualified individuals to fill those seats," Obama said. "What I'm doing today is my job. I need the senate to do its job."
Obama acknowledged that neither political party has a "perfect track record" when it comes to confirmation votes on judicial nominees. He argued that "what's happening now is unprecedented."
Millett, Pillard and Wilkins didn't deliver any remarks today at the Rose Garden announcement, and Obama didn't take any questions from the reporters who attended the event.
Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. was spotted in the crowd. Also present were several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the committee chairman, Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.)
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