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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.


D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals


Letter to Senate from Defenders of Wildlife and 12 other national environmental groups urging prompt action on all pending D.C. Circuit and other judicial nominees (10/25/13)

On June 4, 2013, President Obama nominated Cornelia "Nina" Pillard, Patricia Millett, and U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins to fill three vacancies on the critically important 11-seat D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Patricia Millett CONFIRMED 56-38 on 12/10/13; FILIBUSTERED on 10/31/13, July 10th hearing Senators' statements, Editorials and commentary, Letters

Cornelia "Nina" Pillard CONFIRMED 12/11/13; FILIBUSTERED on 11/12/13 Senators' statements, Editorials and commentary, Letters

Robert Wilkins CONFIRMED 55-43 01/13/2014

After Republican filibusters of nominees to fill three seats on the 11-seat D.C. Circuit, and announced determination to filibuster any nominee to fill any of those seats, Senate Democrats voted to change the rules to allow a majority vote to end a filibuster of any executive or judicial nominees except those for the Supreme Court.

Patricia Millett: the Senate confirmed her nomination on Dec. 10, 2013, after a vote to reconsider a prior cloture vote following a change in the Senate filibuster rule. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved her nomination Aug. 1, 2013 on a 10-8 party-line vote after a July 10th hearing.

Cornelia "Nina" PillardOn December 10, 2013, the Senate reconsidered a prior cloture vote and ended a filibuster on Cornelia "Nina" Pillard's nomination.  She was confirmed on a December 12, 2013 Senate yes-or no vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved her nomination Sept. 19, 2013 on a 10-8 party-line vote after a July 24, 2013 hearing.

Robert Wilkins: The Senate reconsidered a prior cloture vote and confirmed Wilkins on January 13, 2014. Senate Judiciary Committee Sept. 11, 2013 hearing and vote on Oct. 31, 2013

It is vital to fill vacancies, as the D.C. Circuit is the nation's second most important court and decides the fate of national environmental, health, safety, consumer, labor and other safeguards.

President Obama nominated Caitlin Halligan to the D.C. Circuit on September 29, 2010. Senate majorities voted on December 6, 2011 and on March 6, 2013 to end a filibuster of her nomination (both fell short of the super-majority of 60 votes needed). On March 22, 2013, she withdrew.

On June 11, 2012, President Obama nominated Srikanth ("Sri") Srinivasan. His Judiciary Committee hearing was delayed from 2012 and again from January 2012 at the request of the Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA). On May 23, 2013, after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed a cloture petition to force a vote, the Senate agreed to a yes-or-no vote and confirmed Srinivasan 97-0 to the 8th D.C. Circuit seat. This filled one of four vacancies and is President Obama's first D.C. Circuit judge.

During Srinivasan’s belated April 10, 2013 hearing, Sen. Grassley and the other Republican Judiciary Committee members announced the introduction of S. 699, which would cut three D.C. Circuit judgeships. One would be moved to the 2nd Circuit, one to the 11th and the third judgeship would be eliminated.

The March 2011 Judgeship Recommendations by the Judicial Conference of the United States and the Judicial Conference of the U.S. Judgeship Recommendations & Draft Legislation (04/05/13) – for which Chief Justice Roberts is the presiding officer –did not include any change in the D.C. Circuit. It did recommend new circuit court judgeships – but none in the 11th Circuit or the 2nd Circuit.

Justice at Stake wrote a letter opposing the bill on substantive and procedural grounds, and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) pointed out flaws, as did Constitutional Accountability Center, People for the American Way, Alliance for Justice, and numerous commentators.

Sen. Leahy explained that “With respect to those caseload numbers, however, the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts indicates that the D.C. Circuit has a caseload per active judge of 188 pending appeals. This is similar to the caseload per active judge on several other courts to which the Senate has already confirmed nominees this year, including the First, Third, and Tenth Circuits. It is also higher than the caseload per active judge when Senate Republicans moved forward to confirm President Bush’s nominations to the D.C. Circuit just a few years ago."

Sen. Grassley and other Senate Republicans joined Democrats in confirming four of President George W. Bush’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit, including the 9th judge once, 10th judge twice, and 11th judge once: 

·         John G. Roberts, Jr. was confirmed in 2003 to the D.C. Circuit on a voice vote (and was subsequently confirmed to the Supreme Court). 

·         Janice Rogers Brown was initially filibustered, but under the Gang of 14 and current “extraordinary circumstances” filibuster standard, Senate Democrats allowed a 65 to 32 confirmation vote on June 8, 2005. 

·         On yes or no votes, the Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh (57/36) on May 26, 2006, and

·         Thomas Griffith to the court's 11th seat on June 14, 2005 (73-24).

Former D.C. Circuit Chief Patricia M. Wald wrote in March 2013 that: "The D.C. Circuit hears the most complex, time-consuming, labyrinthine disputes over regulations with the greatest impact on ordinary Americans’ lives: clean air and water regulations, nuclear plant safety, health-care reform issues, insider trading and more. These cases can require thousands of hours of preparation by the judges, often consuming days of argument, involving hundreds of parties and interveners, and necessitating dozens of briefs and thousands of pages of record — all of which culminates in lengthy, technically intricate legal opinions."

[Glenn Sugameli: One example is my first D.C. Circuit case, in which three judges co-wrote a very lengthy decision with a table of contents on over 30 environmental and industry challenges to national coal mining regulations and environmental standing to challenge each of 18 regulations.]

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