Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, today we are debating whether the Senate is going to be allowed to vote on the confirmation of Patricia Millett. She is nominated to fill the vacancy that our current Chief Justice John Roberts previously occupied on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

If she is confirmed, as of course she should be, she will be only the sixth woman to serve on the DC Circuit in its more than 120-year history. She is an extraordinary nominee. She has impeccable credentials for this important appellate court.

I, like so many others across this country, hope that her confirmation is not going to suffer from the partisanship and gridlock that consumed Congress earlier this month.

Ms. Millett was born in Dexter, ME and now calls Virginia home, but growing up she lived in Kansas, Virginia, Ohio, and Illinois. She earned her undergraduate degree, summa cum laude, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her law degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School. She served as a law clerk for Judge Thomas Tang on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Phoenix, AZ.

Patricia Millett has had a brilliant legal career. She has argued 32 cases before the Supreme Court. Until recently, she held the record for the most Supreme Court arguments by a woman attorney before the court. She has argued dozens of cases in the Federal courts of appeal. She has briefed numerous cases in the Supreme Court and also appellate courts across the Nation.

Ms. Millett has extensive experience on issues that come before the D.C. Circuit. She served for 15 years in the U.S. Department of Justice in both Democratic and Republican administrations. She worked for 4 years on the appellate staff of the civil division. She argued cases in Federal and State appellate courts, including the successful constitutional defense of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the inclusion of ``In God We Trust'' on Federal currency.

She spent over a decade in the Solicitor General's office. Her stellar reputation led a bipartisan group of seven former Solicitors General to praise her as ``unfailingly fairminded.''

In 2004, Republican Attorney General John Ashcroft awarded Ms. Millett the Attorney General's Distinguished Service Award for representing the interest of the United States before the Supreme Court.

Since 2007, she has led the Supreme Court practice in the Washington, DC, office of Akin Gump. Her work in private practice spans commercial litigation, administrative law, constitutional matters, statutory construction, and even criminal appeals. She has represented Army reservists and business interests, including the Chamber of Commerce as well as civil rights plaintiffs.

Ms. Millett is a nominee with unquestionable integrity and character. She has committed herself to pro bono work. She has done this throughout her career. She has also engaged in some very significant community service. She helps the neediest among us, volunteering through her church to prepare meals for the homeless and serving regularly as an overnight monitor at a local shelter. Twenty years after serving as a law clerk in Arizona, Patricia Millet will return next summer with her family for a mission trip with the White Mountain Apache tribe in Fort Apache, AZ.

It is interesting that in a press conference I held yesterday when we had spouses of people in the military, we talked about another aspect of her career. Her husband is now a retired Navy reservist, but as a military spouse when he was called up, Ms. Millett has a personal understanding of the sacrifice we ask of our servicemembers and their families.

At the very height of her legal career, her husband was called on to deploy as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Of course he left, as those who are called to serve do, but she was left at home with two young children. And what did she do? She did what spouses all over this country do. She filled the role of both parents at home while her husband served in the Navy overseas.

In fact, just the other day the Senate passed a bipartisan resolution to honor families like Ms. Millett's family. We commemorate October 26 as the Day of the Deployed.

Not only is she committed to her own military family, she has helped to secure employment protections for members of our National Guard and Reserve through her pro bono legal work.

I know the distinguished Presiding Officer is concerned about the Guard and Reserve in his State of Massachusetts as I am in my State of Vermont. Ms. Millet also knows the strains that they face. In a case decided by the Supreme Court in 2011, Ms. Millett represented an Army reservist who was fired, in part, because some of his coworkers who stayed at home didn't like his military absences. She stood up for every Guard member and every reservist in Vermont or Massachusetts or any other State in this country. The successful arguments Ms. Millett helped craft have made it easier for all members of our Reserve and National Guard to protect their right under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.

Through her legal work, she has earned broad bipartisan support. This includes the support of Peter Keisler, Carter Phillips, Kenneth Starr, Ted Olson, Paul Clement, and a bipartisan group of 110 appellate practitioners, as well as 37 Deputy Solicitors General and assistants to the Solicitor General from both Republican and Democratic administrations.

She is supported by both the national president of the National Fraternal Order of Police, Chuck Canterbury; the Deputy Commissioner of the New York Police Department, Douglas Maynard; the President of the National Bar Association, John Page; and Andrea Carlise, the current President of the National Conference of Women's Bar Associations. Ms. Millet has the support of the military community including Major General Clark H. McNair, Jr., U.S. Army, Retired; Michael Hall, Command Sergeant Major, U.S. Army, Retired; Blue Star Families; and the Gallant Few.

Based on Ms. Millett's advocacy in private practice, she has the support of former executive vice president at the Chamber of Commerce Litigation Center, Robin Conrad, who declares that Ms. Millett is:

a non-ideological, non-partisan, `lawyer's lawyer,' who has proven herself to be a trusted advisor to business with a practical appreciation of the challenges faced by businesses, large and small. She is open-minded, fair, even-tempered and superbly qualified to serve on the District of Columbia Circuit.

In fact, the list is so long, I ask unanimous consent that it be printed in the Record at the conclusion of my remarks.

If a President was to be given a textbook about the type of nominee to send to the Senate, or if Senators were given a textbook of the type of person to confirm, this would be the golden standard right here. We should not even be having this debate. She should have been confirmed unanimously weeks ago. She is the kind of nominee we should support because hers is a great American story of dedication, diligence, patriotism, and extraordinary professional ability.

I hope nobody is going to get involved in partisan politics and choose to filibuster her nomination. She deserves to be confirmed.

I understand that some Republicans have newfound concerns about the number of judges on the D.C. Circuit. During the Bush administration, Senate Republicans voted unanimously to fill four vacancies on the D.C. Circuit--giving the court a total of 11 judges in active service. Today there are only eight judges on the court. What has changed? It is not the caseload--that has remained fairly constant over the past 10 years. The only thing that has changed is the party of the President nominating judges to the court.

Incidentally, a Republican President nominated a man named John Roberts to the seat Ms. Millett has now been nominated to. When his nomination came up for a vote on the Senate floor, as I recall, all Democrats and all Republicans supported him for that seat. While Democrats did not agree with him philosophically on all issues, we knew he was highly qualified, and he was confirmed.

I don't think it is any stretch to say she is just as qualified. It is the same seat, but the only difference is it is a Democratic President who has nominated her. The standards should be the same. The same standards that allowed John Roberts to be confirmed to that seat with a Republican President are the same standards that should allow her to be confirmed to the seat with a Democratic President. She should be confirmed.

I want to talk about the caseload. The caseload was 121 pending appeals per active judge when President Bush was in office. The Republican-controlled Senate had no problem in confirming the 11th judge to that court.

Now, when the caseload is 185 pending appeals per active judge instead of 121 with a Democratic President, we are told: Gosh, we have to cut back. We have too many judges. It doesn't pass the giggle test.

The fact is that this is what Republicans said. They voted for nominees to fill these 11 seats. Now, when three of those seats are vacant and we are trying to fill one--the same one John Roberts had--some are saying maybe we have too many judges. Back then we had 121 appeals pending per active judge and now we have 185. No matter how we do it, the issue simply comes down to, is this nominee qualified?

I have had the great privilege of serving in this body for almost 40 years. I have voted on thousands of judges nominated by both Republicans and Democrats. I voted to confirm the vast majority of them whether we had a Republican President or a Democratic President. Thinking back through all of those thousands of judges, I have a hard time finding even a handful who were as well qualified as this woman is or where there is as much of a need to have somebody in there.

This is important. This is not only important on the merits--and on the merits it is an easy case--but there should be no delay based on politics. At a time when the American people are looking at the Congress and saying: What are you people doing--first the shutdown and then other things--we should not allow one more example that will bring the scorn of the American people toward this great body by saying no to somebody when every single person, no matter what their politics are and no matter what part of the country they are from, knows how qualified she is.

I was thinking yesterday about when the group representing spouses in the military spoke about what she did to maintain her legal career but first and foremost to take care of her family while her husband was abroad and even then to do such things as help provide food to food kitchens for those less able and less fortunate. When we see a background such as this, we think it is too good to be true, but in this case it is all true. So let's confirm her.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:


Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Back to top