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Obama adds 3 judicial picks to appeals court

- The Washington Times - Monday, June 3, 2013

Raising the stakes in a long-simmering battle with Senate Republicans, President Obama on Tuesday nominated three more judicial candidates to serve on the influential D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, a White House official confirmed.

Two weeks after getting his first nominee confirmed to the court, Mr. Obama nominated Patricia Ann Millett, who has served in administrations of both parties; Cornelia Pillard, who served as former deputy assistant attorney general and former assistant to the solicitor general; and Judge Robert L. Wilkins, who was confirmed unanimously for the D.C. District Court in 2010.

The Circuit Court, which handles a variety of complex cases arising out of Cabinet agencies, is considered a launching pad to the Supreme Court. Four current justices have served on the D.C. Circuit.

The Senate on May 23 confirmed Sri Srinivasan, the administration's principal deputy solicitor general, to a seat on the D.C. Circuit, giving the court four Democratic appointees and four Republican appointees.

There are three vacancies, and Senate Republicans are pushing a bill to transfer those judgeships to other federal appeals courts, arguing that the D.C. Circuit has a relatively light caseload.

Republican senators have said there's no need for Mr. Obama to "pack" the court with his nominees, but the president's move signaled his intention to devote more attention to judicial nominees in his second term.

In his first term, Mr. Obama lagged behind most of his predecessors in getting judicial nominees confirmed.

The D.C. Circuit court has six "senior" judges, five of whom are Republican appointees, and the court has rejected some of the president's agenda.

One panel last year struck down a move by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate air pollution across state lines.

Another panel ruled in January that Mr. Obama could not make recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.

The White House said that from 2000 to 2002, Judge Wilkins spent the majority of his time working to establish the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, serving on the presidential commission and as chairman of the site and building committee.

From 2002 to 2011, he was a partner at Venable LLP in Washington, where he focused on white collar criminal defense, intellectual property and complex commercial litigation.

Ms. Pillard is a professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center and an experienced Supreme Court litigator.

Ms. Millet has argued cases before the Supreme Court 32 times — the second-highest number of Supreme Court appearances of any female lawyer, the White House said.

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