The judicial wars have not gone away. They’re just on hold for at least another week.
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee were preparing today to invoke their powers to insist on a one-week delay before a vote to advance the nomination of Nina Pillard, the Georgetown University law professor who has emerged as the most contentious of President Barack Obama’s three picks for vacancies on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals.
The GOP opposes all three nominees, uniting behind the rationale that the second-most influential federal court in the system (because of its jurisdiction over cases involving federal agencies) doesn't have enough work to justify filling all the available seats.
Beyond that, Republicans are keenly aware that confirming any of the president’s picks would likely tilt the court’s ideological center of gravity to the left after several years weighted to the conservative point of view.
The partisan tussle over the judiciary, which has waxed and waned for more than a decade, enjoyed a brief resurgence in the public eye early this summer, when Obama unveiled his slate to fill the D.C. Circuit’s openings: prominent Washington appellate attorney Patricia Ann Millett, federal District Judge Robert L. Wilkins, and Pillard. The contretemps soon faded into the background for a time, while immigration and Syria and fiscal disagreements came to dominate the Senate’s agenda.
Wilkins had his confirmation hearing Wednesday. Like the session in July when the panel heard from Millett, Republicans signaled they would have nothing substantive to say in opposition to the nominee but would instead focus all their confirmation objections on the argument that the seats they would fill should be left vacant.
That friendly treatment wasn't accorded to Pillard. With the help of conservative advocacy groups, GOP critics have focused a welter of criticism on an array of her academic writings — much of it to do with abortion.