Events, Speeches and Floor Statements

Madam President, I come to the floor today because there are three extremely talented, well-qualified women nominees who are ready to get to work on the United States Court and it's time they are confirmed. I'll be joined this afternoon by several of our colleagues, Senators Hirono, Cantwell, Kaine, and Blumenthal, because we all know that it's time for the Senate to stop the needless blocking of these women. Enough is enough. And I want to thank Chairman Leahy for his persistence and the fact that we are not giving up on these three qualified women for the bench.

Our courts need judges in order for the third branch of our government to function. The Senate should not be shutting down another branch of government. Some of my colleagues in the Senate won't even allow an up-or-down vote on these nominees. I don't know if they've even met these nominees, but if they met these nominees, I don't know how they could come to this floor and not allow an up-or-down vote.

President George W. Bush's candidates to the D.C. Circuit were confirmed so that the D.C. Circuit could keep running and our current president's nominees should be considered in the same manner. You can't have justice with an empty courtroom. It's time to stop making excuses. It's time put judges in their courtrooms. And it's time to get these women on the bench.

One of the very well-qualified nominees is Nina Pillard. She's a talented lawyer and professor. She's the kind of sensible, well-respected person who we need to fill one of those empty seats in that courtroom. Actually, it's Professor Pillard, because these been a law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center for the last 15 years. She graduated magna cum laude from Yale College in 1983 and earned her JD from Harvard law school in 1987, again graduating with honors.

In addition to her academic career, Ms. Pillard served in government. From 1998-2000 she was the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. Prior to that, she served as an assistant to the Solicitor General, a position held by some of our country's most talented lawyers. It should be no surprise that Ms. Pillard is one of the most accomplished Supreme Court advocates in the nation. She has argued nine cases before our nation's highest court and has briefed 25 cases.

Outside the courtroom, she has spent her time teaching and mentoring young lawyers, serving as the faculty director for Georgetown Law School's Supreme Court Institute. When the current Supreme Court Justice Alito was nominated by President Bush to fill an open seat on the Supreme Court, Ms. Pillard also donated her time to the committee to help review his writings and make a recommendation on his qualifications. Why? She was the chair of the American Bar Association reading committee at Georgetown Law Center which found Justice Alito well qualified to sit on the Supreme Court.

People across the aisle think that Ms. Pillard is well qualified to. The office of legal policy under President Bush said that Ms. Pillard is a patient and unbiased listener, a lawyer of great judgment and unquestioned integrity. The dean of 25 law schools, including the University of New Hampshire, the University of Arizona, and University of Maine wrote that Ms. Pillard has shown an appreciation of nuance and respect for opposing viewpoints. Grounded in a profound commitment to fair process and fidelity to the law. 25 more former federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials said that Ms. Pillard is unquestionably eminently qualified and is a sensible and fair-minded lawyer. And the nonpartisan American Bar Association -- this is no surprise -- the committee that reviews every federal judicial nominee unanimously gave Ms. Pillard its highest possible rating.

Fair-minded, unquestionably qualified, unquestioned integrity -- these are the qualities the Senate should be looking for in a person we entrust to decide cases in our federal courts. Next week the Senate should give Ms. Pillard an up-or-down vote. My hope for progress next week is in contrast to the reality we saw just one week ago when the Senate voted to block another eminently qualified woman to an up-or-down vote.

As I stated last week on the floor, Patty Millett would also be an excellent person to fill one of the vacancies on the D.C. Court. My colleagues have discussed the qualifications of Ms. Millett at length. She's a talented lawyer with extensive appellate experience. 32 cases in front of the Supreme Court. I do not understand how anyone in good faith could vote to block an up-or-down vote of someone who argued 32 cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, who has served as an Assistant Solicitor General, who spent 15 years as an attorney on the appellate staff of the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

With all this experience, Ms. Millett is also one of the most experienced Supreme Court advocates in the nation. Just like Ms. Pillard, Ms. Millett also received the highest possible rating from the nonpartisan American Bar Association committee that reviews every federal judicial nominee. And she's done all of this, as we all have learned, while raising a family with a spouse serving in the military overseas. Raising two children while her husband was serving our country overseas. While donating her time to help kids learn how to read, volunteering for the homeless. How can anyone not allow for a vote on this nominee? This is another woman of unquestioned ability.

Instead of confirming Ms. Millett last week, sadly she was filibustered. Another woman filibustered, stopped in her tracks. Well, we are here today and some of my colleagues have gotten to the floor. And before I talk about Caitlin Halligan, I'm going to give them an opportunity to speak. But another woman stopped in her tracks. This has to end.

We have been making so much progress for women in the judicial system for women in the United States Senate. We are now 20 of a hundred senators. No one filibustered us. We got to get an up-or-down vote when we came before the American people, win or lose. Well, how it works for judges is you should get an up-or-down vote, and that's what these women deserve. With that, I'm going to turn it over to Senator Hirono from the State of Hawaii, also a member of the Judiciary Committee…

We've also been joined by Senator Kaine of Virginia who knows a little bit about one of these nominees and also is a strong advocate for more women in the legal profession. And that's one of the cases that we're making here today, that this is about the D.C. Circuit, this is about the repeated gridlock that we're seeing in Washington that I think the people of this country said they've had enough of, but it also is about the fact that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have now blocked not one, not two but three incredibly qualified women.

I thank my colleague from Virginia for his well thought out argument and evidence he put out here before the president, a former law professor, who believes in evidence, and I think it's important that we look at the facts here, and I wanted to back up before I know the Senator from Washington is here, to back up some of the facts for why this workload argument really doesn't make sense, even when it's put out for the women nominees and it wasn't put out recently for the male nominees, but here's the facts.

When George W. Bush was President, the Senate confirmed his nominees to fill four empty seats on the D.C. Circuit. That wasn't that long ago. Under President Obama, there have been four vacant seats on the court. There were four under Bush and four under Obama. The difference, the president with his nominees, all of them, were confirmed by the United States Senate. It's important to note that one of President Obama's nominees as was pointed out by my colleague from Virginia was confirmed by the Senate, a guy. And I guess that means that one guy is confirmed and then these three seats are still open, for which women have been put forward.

Some people apparently think that there is a problem with this, with the numbers, but let's look at the actual numbers. The individuals have -- these same people have supported having more judges on another court that actually has fewer pending cases, and the reason we use that standard pending cases, that that is the active cases. They are not the pro forma orders that are issued quickly. These are the actual cases before the court where they have to make difficult decisions. The D.C. Circuit has eight active judges, six partially retired senior judges and 1,479 pending cases.

The Tenth Circuit has ten active judges, ten senior judges and 1,341 pending active cases. So the Tenth Circuit, which my colleagues have confirmed multiple nominees, has more judges but fewer pending cases per judge. Why does the Tenth Circuit have more judges with fewer cases per judge than the D.C. Circuit?

Well, to me, the answer is quite simple. Earlier this year, the Senate confirmed two judges to fill the empty seats on the Tenth Circuit, and the Senate should do the same with the D.C. Circuit by taking these three well-qualified nominees and confirming them. With that, I see the Senator from Washington has arrived. I know she has a few remarks about this as well. As I have pointed out to you, Madam President, this is just the beginning, that we are going to continue the fight for these three women judges.