News & Politics

Getting to Know Obama Court Nominee Patricia Ann Millett

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

Patricia Millett is one of President Obama’s three nominees to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Photograph by Christopher Leaman.

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.

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.

Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 and was a senior editor until 2022.