Getting to Know Obama Court Nominee Patricia Ann Millett

A partner at Akin Gump, she leads the firm’s Supreme Court practice.

By: Marisa M. Kashino

President Obama has nominated three elite Washington jurists to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit—the court that often produces Supreme Court justices.

Among the nominees is Patricia Ann Millett, currently a partner at Akin Gump, where she leads the firm’s Supreme Court practice. We’ve written about her previously, noting in 2009 that with the departures and retirements of other top women Supreme Court lawyers, she was perhaps the last woman standing among Washington’s crème de la crème of high court advocates in private practice.

At the time, Millett commented that law students frequently asked her what she wore for Supreme Court arguments—a question she noticed her male counterparts were rarely asked. Her quick-witted response to them: “I wear clothes every single time.”

Later, when former assistant to the solicitor general Lisa Blatt left government service to lead Arnold & Porter’s Supreme Court practice, she gave Millett some welcome competition to become the woman lawyer with the most arguments at the Supreme Court. Blatt is currently ahead, with 33 arguments to Millett’s 32.

Next, of course, Millett will have to be confirmed by the Senate, where Republicans have held up one of Obama’s prior nominations to the DC Circuit and questioned whether the court’s vacancies should be filled at all.

But Tom Goldstein, another well known Supreme Court lawyer and former partner of Millett’s at Akin Gump, calls Millett “completely objective and non-ideological in a way that should make even Republicans smile” and “a ferocious worker and brilliant writer.” He also notes her commitment to family, evidenced by the fact that she “was effectively a single mom” of her two children during some of her husband, Robert King's military service. King, who served 22 years with the Navy—nine on active duty, 13 in the reserves—was deployed to Kuwait as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.*

Obama’s other picks for the federal appeals court are Georgetown Law professor Cornelia Pillard and US District Court judge Robert Leon Wilkins.

*This post has been updated from a previous version.