People For the American Way

DC Circuit Court of Appeals Nominee Nina Pillard: 10 Things You Should Know

On June 4, 2013, President Obama nominated Georgetown Law Professor Nina Pillard to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Over the course of her law career, Professor Pillard has won historic Supreme Court victories, and served two tours as a high-level government lawyer at the Department of Justice. She has spent 15 years teaching at Georgetown Law, where she is co-director of Georgetown’s Supreme Court Institute. As the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares to vote on her nomination tomorrow, here are 10 things you might not know about Professor Pillard:

1) She helped open VMI to women. Professor Pillard wrote the briefs in United States v. Virginia, a case originally filed by the George H.W. Bush Administration. Professor Pillard’s arguments persuaded the Supreme Court to open the Virginia Military Institute to women, ending one of the last male-only admissions policies at a state college. Read an op-ed about Professor Pillard from a VMI alumna here

2) She protected the Family & Medical Leave Act. Professor Pillard argued Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs before the Supreme Court, alongside Department of Justice  officials from the George W. Bush administration. Their defense of the Family and Medical Leave Act successfully vindicated a state employee’s right to take unpaid leave to care for his ill wife. Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote the majority opinion.

3) She has bipartisan support—including from top Republican former Justice Department officials. Professor Pillard’s impressive record, integrity, and impartiality have earned her the support across the political spectrum, including from top Department of Justice officials in previous Republican administrations. President George W. Bush’s Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh and former FBI Director William Sessions both wrote personal letters to the Senate Judiciary Committee endorsing Professor Pillard for the DC Circuit.

4) She has argued or briefed dozens of cases before the Supreme Court. Over the course of her career, Professor Pillard has litigated at all levels and throughout the country, from trial court to the Supreme Court.

5) If confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, Nina Pillard would be only the sixth woman to serve on that court in its 120-year history.

6) She is admired for her integrity and fairness. In an op-ed in Politico today, Josiah Bunting III, who was the superintendent of VMI when it opened to female students, writes that he was opposed to the integration at the time but now sees it as “VMI’s finest hour.” Bunting writes that during the case, he was “impressed by Pillard’s fairness and rigor” and  said she “comported herself with integrity and understanding – qualities that distinguish the best judges at all levels.”

7) Professor Pillard has substantial expertise in matters affecting law enforcement. Professor Pillard served two tours at the U.S. Department of Justice and has repeatedly defended and advised law enforcement officials. Her expertise has earned her the endorsement of the International Union of Police Associations and more than two dozen top attorneys in law enforcement and national security.

8) She’s a beloved professor. Over the last 15 years, Nina Pillard has distinguished herself as a professor at Georgetown University Law Center. One of her favorite classes to teach is Civil Procedure, which covers the crucial role that fair process plays in the American legal system.

9) Professor Pillard serves as a Co-Director of Georgetown University’s Supreme Court Institute. Here, she prepares lawyers for argument on a pro bono, first-come basis, without regard to which side they represent. Over the past term, the Institute prepared lawyers on one or both sides of every case heard by the Supreme Court. 

10) Professor Pillard has devoted considerable time and energy to mentoring others throughout her career. During her years at Georgetown, she has mentored countless law students.  As a college student, moreover, she mentored low-income girls through a Big Sister program.  In addition, she served on the Board of Friends of the Double Discovery Center at Columbia College, which works with low-income and first-generation-college youth to ensure academic skills building, high school graduation, college entrance and completion, and responsible adulthood.


D.C. Circuit, judicial nominees, Nina Pillard