The US Senate confirmed Patricia Millett and Nina Pillard to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit this week, making this the first time the court has had five active female judges. The court is the second most important in the US because of its jurisdiction over most federal agencies.
The Senate confirmed Patricia Millett by a 56-38 vote on Tuesday. Millett, an appellate lawyer who has made 32 arguments before the Supreme Court and served in the Department of Justice, fills a vacancy open since 2005.
Nina Pillard was confirmed late last night in a vote of 51-44. “Throughout her career, Ms. Pillard has displayed an unwavering commitment to to justice and integrity,” said President Obama in a statement on her confirmation. “Her landmark accomplishments on behalf of women and families include Supreme Court cases defending the constitutionality of the Family and Medical Leave Act and opening the doors of the Virginia Military Institute to female students.”
In October, Senate Republicans filibustered two highly qualified women nominees to the DC Circuit, including Millett, and they were set to filibuster Pillard as well. “Republicans have been engaging in an egregious abuse of power by systematically blocking presidential nominees to the federal bench and disproportionately affecting the appointment of highly qualified women and people of color,” said Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal about the filibusters. After women’s groups called attention to the number of women being blocked from confirmation, the Senate voted 52-48 in November to change the filibuster rules to require a simple majority – rather than 60 votes – to end debate on presidential nominees to the executive branch and the federal bench, with the exception of nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Media Resources: The Hill 12/10/13; The White House Office of the Press Secretary 12/10/13, 12/12/13; ; Washington Examiner 12/12/13; Feminist Newswire 11/12/13, 11/21/13