Washington lawyer Patricia Millett will be in line for a substantial pay cut if her nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit survives the confirmation process she begins this week.
The Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld partner is set to appear on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the first of three nominees the White House is pushing to fill vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Senate Republicans have already voiced their opposition to approving any more of Obama’s nominees to the key appeals court.
If the Senate confirms her, however, Millett would trade law firm earnings of $1 million per year, according to newly released committee records, for the $184,500 salary of a federal circuit judge.
The records, gathered as part of the nomination process, contain a number of points of interest.
Waiting game: The White House Counsel’s Office first spoke to Millett of a nomination to the D.C. Circuit in January 2012. She met with White House officials in February 2012 and then waited for more than a year.
“I was contacted again by an official from the White House Counsel's Office in March 2013 to discuss whether I continued to be interested in being considered for nomination to the D.C. Circuit,” Millett wrote. She interviewed with attorneys from the White House Counsel's Office and the U.S. Department of Justice in May, and was nominated in June.
Compare that to the other two nominees to the D.C. Circuit: Cornelia "Nina" Pillard, a former Justice Department lawyer who is now a Georgetown University Law Center professor, said she was first contacted in January; U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins in Washington reported that the White House first contacted him in March.
President Obama announced the nominations during a June 4 Rose Garden ceremony, kicking off a more aggressive tone about placing his judicial nominations on the bench.
Pay cut: Millett reported making $1,073,526 as an Akin Gump partner in 2012, up from the $992,608 she reported during 2011. Through June 4 of this year, she had earned $369,843. As a federal circuit judge, she would receive $184,500 per year.
Millett said she would recuse herself from any Akin Gump cases pending severance of any financial ties and a cooling-off period. She also would recuse from any case involving the Florida Sugar Cane League or its financial interests, since her husband works there. The couple owns no stock (other than through retirement accounts).
Supporting Each Other: Before her nomination, Millett signed joint letters of support for six judicial nominees to the Senate Judiciary Committee, including two nominees who languished in the face of Republican opposition before withdrawing from consideration.
They were Edward DuMont, nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in April 2010 only to withdraw 18 months later “from opposition on the part of one or more members of the Committee minority;" and Caitlin Halligan, nominated in 2010 to the D.C. Circuit but repeatedly blocked through GOP filibusters until she withdrew in March.
Now that it’s her turn, six former solicitor generals signed a letter attesting that Millett has “a brilliant mind, a gift for clear, persuasive writing, and a genuine zeal for the rule of law,” and is “unfailingly fair-minded.”
Millett worked for the solicitor general’s office for 11 years, part of the reason why Millett and Arnold & Porter's Lisa Blatt have traded places as the woman with the most arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, with Blatt now sitting at the top — by one — with 33 cases.
Helping Obama: Millet spent September and November 2008 as a volunteer legal adviser for Obama’s campaign. “I provided legal assistance to the Voter Protection Teams for Ohio and New Hampshire, including preparing for potential election challenges,” Millett said in the committee records.
Case with Cruz: In giving her work history, Millett highlighted a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case she participated while an assistant in the solicitor general’s office. Also counsel of record in the case: Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a Judiciary Committee member. Back then, he was solicitor general of Texas.
According to Millett, she drafted the United States' brief and prepared the U.S. solicitor general for oral arguments in Van Orden v. Perry, helping Texas defend a Ten Commandments display on public property when presented as part of a larger commemoration of state history and culture.
The court held that the display was consistent with the Establishment Clause.
Not Her First Time: Millett previously testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in July 2008 during a hearing titled "Courting Big Business: The Supreme Court's Recent Decisions on Corporate Misconduct and Laws Regulating Corporations.”
“Again, I think one should keep in mind in characterizing the Supreme Court, if I could just say lastly, that slightly over half of the cases were decided this term in favor of business,” Millett testified at the time. “They decided more cases in favor of criminal defendants than they did in favor of business this term. But no one wants to characterize it as a pro-criminal defense Supreme Court.”
Contact Todd Ruger at email@example.com.