People For the American Way

A Powerful Call to Support Nina Pillard for the D.C. Circuit

D.C. Circuit nominee Nina Pillard – who famously wrote the briefs that convinced the Supreme Court to open the Virginia Military Institute to women – got a powerful statement of support this morning from none other than the man who served as VMI’s superintendent at the time.

Josiah Bunting III writes in Politico how he had at the time strongly supported VMI’s all-men tradition as essential to the institution. Yet in the years since the barrier against women fell, he has realized that he was wrong, and he now calls the integration of women “VMI’s finest hour.”

Many people deserve credit for today’s successful coeducation at VMI, not the least of whom are the brave women who first sought to walk through its gates. But it was a dedicated attorney named Nina Pillard who wrote the briefs that convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the school’s male-only admissions policy in United States v. Virginia.

Superintendent Bunting explains how his experience on the other side of litigation from Pillard showed him her fundamental fairness, integrity, and commitment to the United States Constitution.

During the course of the [VMI] case, I was impressed by Pillard’s fairness and rigor. She respected others’ strongly held views about male-only education at VMI, and I always felt that while we had opposing positions at the time, she comported herself with integrity and understanding — qualities that distinguish the best judges at all levels.

VMI has now graduated hundreds of women who have gone on to rewarding careers in the armed forces, public service and the private sector. Today, our alumni can look forward to the day when their daughters, too, can attend VMI and carry our tradition forward.

Pillard’s work in United States v. Virginia demonstrated her judgment and dedication to upholding the Constitution. Her work has strengthened the fundamental principles of American democracy that VMI was designed to protect. She deserves to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

It is hard to exaggerate just how strong the emotions were among the men of VMI when their all-male status came under challenge. So for the superintendent at the time to call for his opponent on the other side of the issue to be confirmed as a federal appeals court judge might surprise some people. But it comes as no surprise to anyone who is at all familiar with Pillard’s record.

Nina Pillard has spent her career advancing equality for women, and doing so in a way that has earned the respect of both allies and opponents. As Superintendent Bunting says, “she deserves to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.”


D.C. Circuit, judicial nominations, Lower Federal Courts, Nina Pillard