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RIPPED TO SHREDS
In the hyperpartisan battle over Obama’s nominees
to the D.C. Circuit, the candidates’ qualifications
don’t really matter. By JAMES OLIPHANT
Illustration by TRACI DABERKO
ATRICIA MILLETT, if you don’t
end up on the D.C. Circuit, it’s
not your fault.
So says Ted Cruz, the latest Republican firebreather on the Senate Judiciary Committee. (You’ll be seeing him a lot
in the next U.S. Supreme Court fight.) During
Millett’s confirmation hearing before the committee in July, the Texan made it clear that his
(likely) opposition to Millett will not stem from
her readiness to sit on what just about everyone
calls the second most important court in America, but because she has strolled right smack into
the middle of a blood feud.
“You find yourself in the midst of a broader
battle,” Cruz told Millett as her hearing wound
to a close, “and a battle on issues, many of which
are unconnected to your professional back-
ground and qualifications.”
For GOP purposes, that’s a good thing, be-
cause Millett’s credentials for the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the D.C. Circuit are rather unas-
sailable. The Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
partner heads the firm’s Supreme Court prac-
tice, chairs the firm’s national appellate practice,
and has argued 32 cases before the high court.
She spent more than a decade in the solicitor
general’s office during both the Clinton and
George W. Bush administrations.
“There is no question she should serve on
that court,” Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy
said during the hearing.
Ah, if it were ever, ever that simple. Elected
just last year, Cruz is a newcomer to the Senate, but an old hand at federal judicial politics.
He’s a former state solicitor general with his
own experience arguing before the Supreme
Court, who once clerked for William Rehnquist
and served at the top levels of the U.S. Department of Justice. He put his finger squarely on
the larger issue. “Partisan politics has driven
this committee’s approach to the D.C. Circuit
for over a decade,” he said.
Indeed, the skirmishes over D.C. Circuit
nominees resemble nothing less than the much-