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Cornelia T. L. Pillard

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Cornelia T. L. Pillard
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Current Court Information:
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
Title:   Judge
Appointed by:   Barack Obama
Approval vote:   51-44
Active:   12/12/2013 - Present
Preceded by:   Douglas Ginsburg
Personal History
Born:   1961
Hometown:   Washington D.C.
Undergraduate:   Yale College, B.A., 1983
Law School:   Harvard Law, J.D., 1987

Cornelia T. L. "Nina" Pillard is a federal judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Prior to her appointment she was a professor at Georgetown University Law Center.[1] In June of 2013, President Obama nominated Pillard for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.[2] Pillard was confirmed to the court by the Seante on December 12, 2013.[3]

Early life and education

Pillard earned her B.A. from Yale College, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 1983. She went on to earn her J.D. from Harvard Law in 1987, again graduating Magna Cum Laude. She worked as the editor of the Harvard Law Review from 1985-1986.[4]

Professional career

  • 1997-2013: Law Professor, Georgetown University Law Center
  • 2008-2009: Academic Co-Director and Professor, Center for Transnational Legal Studies
  • 2006: Visiting Fellow, Institute for Advanced Legal Studies

Judicial career

DC Circuit

Nomination Tracker
 Candidate:Cornelia T. L. Pillard
 Court:District of Columbia Circuit
 Progress:Confirmed 191 days after nomination.
ApprovedANominated:June 4, 2013
ApprovedAABA Rating:Unanimously Well Qualified
ApprovedAHearing:July 24, 2013
ApprovedAReported:September 19, 2013 
ApprovedAConfirmed:December 12, 2013
 Vote: 55-41

On June 4, 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Cornelia T. L. Pillard to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to fill the vacancy left by Douglas Ginsburg upon his retirement.[5] Obama commented on the nomination, stating:

So these three individuals are highly qualified to serve on the D.C. Circuit. They have broad bipartisan support from across the legal community. The non-partisan American Bar Association have given them -- each of them -- its highest rating. These are no slouches. These are no hacks. There are incredibly accomplished lawyers by all accounts. And there are members of Congress here today who are ready to move forward with these nominations, including the Chairman, Patrick Leahy. So there’s no reason -- aside from politics -- for Republicans to block these individuals from getting an up or down vote.[6][7]

Pillard was rated "Unanimously Well Qualified" by the American Bar Association. You can find her Committee Questionnaire available here.[8]

Confirmation hearing

Pillard faced opposition from Republicans during her confirmation hearing on July 23, 2013. Senator Ted Cruz summarized those concerns by saying, "I have concerns about your nomination. The primary source we have are your academic writings, and those writings to me suggest that your views may well be considerably out of the mainstream."[9] Pertaining to the articles she was questioned about, Pillard said, "Academics are paid to test the boundaries and look at the implications of things. As a judge, I would apply established law of the U.S. Supreme Court and the D.C. Circuit."[9]

Senators Cruz, Mike Lee, Jeff Flake and Chuck Grassley focused on Pillard's opposition to abstinence-only sex education, interpretation of a religious freedom ruling, and an article in which Pillard referred to abortion opponent protesters as "militant." In addition, Senator Grassley reiterated his support for abolishing the three vacant seats on the D.C. Circuit. During the hearing, Grassley read aloud anonymous statements from current judges of the court who favored eliminating the seats.[9]

Senate Judiciary Committee vote

On September 19, 2013, Pillard's nomination was confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party line vote of 10-8.[10]

Senate filibuster

On November 13, 2013, the U.S. Senate filibustered Pillard's confirmation. The 56-41 cloture vote wasn't enough to end debate on the candidate effectively blocking the nomination. This was the second of three such filibusters of nominees to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the other two were Patricia Ann Millett and Robert L. Wilkins, which spurred Democrats in the Senate to change to filibuster rules to only require a simple majority instead of the 60 percent majority to close debate on a candidate.[11][12]


Cornelia T. L. Pillard was confirmed by the Senate on December 12, 2013, on a vote of 51-44. Her confirmation came after Senate Democrats changed the filibuster rules to require only a simple majority to end debate on nominees, referred to as the "Nuclear Option".[3]

Awards and associations


  • 2012-2013: Public Policy Fellowship, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
  • 2010-Present: Associated Member, Corporate Social Responsibility in the Electronics Manufacturing Industry
  • 2006: Visiting Scholar, Institute of Advanced Legal Study, London, United Kingdoms
  • 2005: Georgetown Public Interest Professor of the Year Award


  • 2011-Present: Academic Advisory Council, Law Students for Reproductive Justice
  • 2009-Present: Executive Committee of the Board of Directors, American Arbitration Association
  • 2008-2011: Academic Council, Center for Transnational Legal Studies
  • 2005-Present: Board of Directors, American Arbitration Association
  • 2005-2007: Advisory Board, Center for WorkLife Law
  • 2004-2008: Liberty and Equality Working Group, American Constitution Society
  • 2002-2011: Georgetown Law Supreme Court Institute
  • 2011-Present: Faculty Co-Director
  • 2002-2011: Advisory Board
  • 1999-Present: Board of Academic Advisors, Georgetown journal of Gender and the Law
  • 1991-1992: Board of Directors, Double Discovery Center at Columbia University
  • 1988-1990: Grace Choral Society, Brooklyn
  • 1988-1989: Marvin M. Karpatkin Fellowship, American Civil Liberties Union
  • 1986-1987: Harvard Law Review Book Review and Commentary Editor
  • 1985-1986: Harvard Law Review Editor[13]

See also

External links


Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
Douglas Ginsburg
Circuit Court of Appeals for D.C.
Succeeded by:

Washington, D.C.Washington, D.C. judicial newsJudicial selection in Washington, D.C.United States District Court for the District of ColumbiaUnited States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia CircuitDistrict of Columbia Court of AppealsSuperior Court of the District of ColumbiaDCTemplate.jpg