With political maneuvering and scare tactics from both sides of the aisle in the Senate and also from the White House, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington D.C. Circuit retains three empty seats, down from four less than a month ago with President Obama’s first successful nomination to the Court, Sri Srinivasan.
In the midst of the victory for the Obama administration, as well as the country given that the vote in favor of Hon. Srinivasan was an overwhelming 97-0, three seats remain vacant on the second-most important court in the country. While a strategy to name the final three judges from the White House could be tempered and aid efficaciously in the fight against the vicious partisanship seen between the president and Congress, President Obama has decided otherwise.
Before we get into the political maneuvering by the White House on this decision to nominate all three judges simultaneously, let’s meet the nominees first.
Meet District Judge Robert L. Wilkins. Educated in Chemical Engineering and a Harvard law graduate, Hon. Wilkins was listed in the "40 under 40 most successful litigators in America" in 2002. And in 2008, he was named one of the 90 greatest Washington lawyers in the past 30 years.
Next, meet Patricia Ann Millett. Harvard educated, Millet has clerked at the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, is a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld LLP and has argued 36 cases in courts of appeals and 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Finally, meet Cornelia Pillard. Pillard is a Professor of Law at Georgetown Law School, director of the Supreme Court Institute and has argued nine cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Each of these individuals is highly qualified and would likely sail through the confirmation process if their nominations were independent of one another. However, they are not being nominated individually. They are being nominated all three at the same time in the midst of a tumultuous congressional-presidential relationship. Herein continues the bitter partisanship that has crippled our country's legislative and governing processes.
This court is quite important both legally and politically given its high level of judicial power and its geographic location. Also, in light of the longstanding vacancies in this court, the president's agenda has been routinely squelched from the conservative majority on the court. Therefore, frustrated at the slowing of his agenda and the battle with Congress, President Obama has decided to play hardball. Not only would nominations by the president to this court tip it from largely conservative to notably liberal, but the process is just as important.
Instead of nominating each one at a time, the president has chosen to nominate all three simultaneously to essentially goad Senate Republicans. The stacked nominations simultaneously naturally scare Senate Republicans and they will likely filibuster the move by the White House. This is what the White House wants, and it is pushing to illuminate the seeming abuse of the use of the filibuster from Senate Republicans, thus driving the two parties farther apart in an endless game of "Gotcha" akin to a fight on the playground.
This increased entrenchment will tip the court from conservative to liberal and will continue the fight between the two political parties in this country over who's right and who's wrong based on who can yell the loudest at the other side. There appears to be very little, if any, move toward reciprocity from either side. And this latest move by the Obama administration is a product of the elementary politics, guided by the lack of strong leadership the office of the President requires, which we have seen lately in Washington. Assuredly, this will play a role in defining his legacy as president as one who refused to be the first to act in ending this political war.