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Confirmation battles loom over D.C. Circuit

Setting the stage for what could be the biggest judicial confirmation battles since his Supreme Court picks went before the Senate, President Barack Obama made three nominations to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in D.C. – considered by most to be the second most powerful court in the country.

And with his nominations of attorney Patricia Ann Millett, U. S. District Court Judge Robert Leon Wilkins and Georgetown law professor Cornelia Pillard, Obama warned members of the Senate not to use stalling tactics or block the nominees.

“Chief Justice John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the highest court in the land, and former member of the D.C. Circuit Court says they need 11 judges,” Obama said yesterday in announcing the nominees.  “So it’s important we don’t play games here, and it’s important that we cut through the verbiage.”

The president also blasted a GOP proposal to reduce the number of judges on the court, which has long been one of the most fertile source of Supreme Court justices. Four of the nine current justices are former D.C. Circuit judges.

“When a Republican was President, 11 judges on the D.C. Circuit Court made complete sense.  Now that a Democrat is President, it apparently doesn’t.  Eight is suddenly enough,” Obama said, drawing chuckles from the crowd gathered in the White House lawn.  “People are laughing because it’s obviously a blatant political move.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, blasted what he called an attempt by the president to pack the appellate court for political gain. “It’s hard to imagine the rationale for nominating three judges at once for this court given the many vacant emergency seats across the country, unless your goal is to pack the court to advance a certain policy agenda,” said Grassley.  “No matter how you slice it, the D.C. Circuit ranks last or almost last in nearly every category that measures workload.”


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