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That Was Quick: Pamela Harris Nominated for 4th Cir. Vacancy

By William Peacock, Esq. on May 09, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Judge Andre Davis took senior status barely two months ago, yet there's already a nominee for his seat, the only vacancy in the Fourth Circuit. Compare that expediency with the nine years it took to fill the seat last time.

Who's the nominee? Meet Georgetown Law visiting professor and former O'Melveny & Myers appellate attorney Pamela Harris. Her nomination for the Maryland-assigned seat was announced late Thursday by the White House and drew immediate praise from local politicians.

Others may not be quite so happy.

That's Quite a Resume

Harris, a Maryland native, is currently a visiting professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. Prior to that, she had a long career, much of which involved appellate litigation and the Supreme Court.

She clerked for D.C. Circuit Judge Harry T. Edwards before spending a year in practice. She followed that up by clerking for Justice John Paul Stevens of the U.S. Supreme Court.

After a stint in the Department of Justice, she taught at the University of Pennsylvania for three years before jumping back into BigLaw, eventually becoming a partner in O'Melveny & Myers, with a practice focused on appellate and Supreme Court litigation.

Between 2007 and 2009, she co-directed Harvard Law's Supreme Court and Appellate Practice Clinic, then later became the Executive Director of the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown.

She then spent two years as the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Policy at the DOJ before returning to Georgetown.

No Blue Slips Coming

One obstacle that we've seen employed recently to block judicial nominations, especially since the filibuster was nuked, is the blue slip process, where a senator can refuse to turn in a blue slip for a nominee to a seat assigned to his or her state, thereby blocking a nomination. It's effectively a veto power, exercised by one or two senators, over the President's judicial nominations.

That won't happen here. Not only are both of Maryland's senators Democrats, and therefore unlikely to veto President Barack Obama's nominee, but they've already issued a statement endorsing Harris as a nominee.

NAACP Isn't Going to be Happy

When Judge Davis stepped down earlier this year, the NAACP, along with other groups, sent a letter to President Obama urging him to nominate an African American, preferably a female, for the seat.

The letter noted that Maryland's population is 30 percent black, that there are no African American nominees currently pending for circuit court vacancies, and only eight African American women ever have served on the federal appellate bench, with three of the seven active judges from this group nearing senior status.

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