D.C. Circuit Nominee Nina Pillard Examined

By Brett Snider, Esq. on September 05, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Few would say that a Senate Confirmation hearing is their idea of a good time, but if D.C. Circuit nominee Nina Pillard wanted to be scrutinized, she's certainly getting her money's worth.

Cornelia "Nina" Pillard was nominated to the D.C. Circuit by President Obama along with two others at the start of the summer, giving the Senate plenty of time to grill Pillard about her judicial record and personal philosophies.

So what do we know about Pillard, and what are her opponents saying about her?

What We're Pretty Certain Of

While she may not be getting much work done during the confirmation process, Pillard is currently a law professor at Georgetown University. She also co-authored a piece called "Against the New Maternalism" in the Michigan Journal of Gender and Law in 2012 (see the abstract here).

According to her CV, she's previously held positions in the DOJ, Attorney General, and Solicitor General's Offices, and she worked for both the NAACP and ACLU. She's an Ivy-leaguer for both undergrad and law school (Yale and Harvard, respectively) and was the editor of the Harvard Women's Law Journal for a year.

Pillard was also involved in representing female students in the landmark Virginia Military Institute case, so we can be pretty sure she agrees that teaching women math and science -- along with their male counterparts -- is a plus (sorry Justice Scalia).

Let the Speculation Begin

The rest of Pillard's background and philosophy has been the subject of great speculation over the summer months, with her opponents decrying her as a radical feminist.

Slate's Dahlia Lithwick believes that much of the pushback to Pillard's confirmation to one of three vacant D.C. circuit spots is part of a larger dialogue of cardboard representations of a person who has spoken on gender equality as a militant femi-nazi.

Conservative opponents have leaned particularly hard on Pillard's views of reproductive choices and contraception, with some sources going so far as to call her confirmation testimony "false and deceptive" with respect to her views on the subject.

National Review Online's Ed Whelan takes real umbrage with Pillard's assertion that she would not seek to "restyle" constitutional law, when Pillard has made statements the line of non-procreative sex cases from Griswold to Lawrence suggest that women should have "ready access to safe and effective birth control."

Her opponents have some reason to be concerned about her record; members of the D.C. Circuit have a habit of making it into the Supreme Court (like Chief Justice Roberts). That said, judges change their positions on cases often throughout their tenure in the D.C. Circuit and SCOTUS, so maybe we should take Pillard's hearing with a giant grain of salt.

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