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Nina Pillard Confirmed, Changes to D.C. Circuit to Follow?

By Brett Snider, Esq. on December 17, 2013 2:56 PM

D.C. Circuit nominee Nina Pillard was confirmed on Thursday morning, making her the second Obama nominee to be confirmed to the Court since the filibuster reform.

At around 1 a.m. in D.C., the Senate confirmed Pillard by a vote of 51-44, reports The Associated Press. This was after hearing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) do his best Scrooge impression and tell the collected Senators that they would be "work[ing] though Christmas" if these confirmations didn't go as planned.

But will Pillard's addition to the court be that much of a bah-humbug change?

'Radical Feminist' Joins the Court

From about the time she was nominated until her recent confirmation, Pillard has been dogged by conservative criticism that she is a "radical feminist." Our view on Pillard hasn't changed much, she's still an accomplished law professor and a big player in the field of gender equality.

In fact, as Bloomberg so deftly pointed out, after helping fight for women in U.S. v. Virginia, Pillard "championed the rights of men" in a Nevada state paternity leave case.

Still there are some that worry that Pillard's political leanings will undermine her unbiased position on the D.C. Circuit. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell added his two cents by calling Pillard "a liberal ideologue" who will "rubber stamp" items on Obama's agenda that come the court's way, reports The Wall Street Journal.

It also isn't a secret that Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) has a bit of an ax to grind with Pillard, having used her Judiciary Committee testimony on reproductive rights as a sharp, pointy stick with which to poke other nominees.

Will Pillard Decide on Party Lines

It's interesting that every time a nominee comes up for confirmation to a powerful court, either side assumes the worst about her or his future time on the bench.

Take Senior Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg for example, the judge whose seat Pillard is slated to take. Ginsburg was appointed by Reagan, yet has made decisions relating to regulation and capital punishment which cross party lines.

Even the U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts started as a G.W. Bush nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court, and he wrote the majority opinion in a case which allowed gay marriage to continue unabated across California.

But that doesn't mean Pillard's addition will make no difference to the D.C. Circuit. She may be the swing vote in the net neutrality debate, or even the one judge in the Court who isn't tired of hearing about Yucca Mountain.

Only time and case law will tell.

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