D.C. Circuit Court

The D.C. Circuit covers the smallest territory of the geographically-based circuits, but it wields outsize significance due to its strong influence on federal action. Many environmental laws provide for appeals exclusively to the D.C. Circuit, and the court reviews actions of almost all federal agencies. In addition, the D.C. Circuit is a traditional stepping-stone to the U.S. Supreme Court, with four of the current justices having previously sat on the D.C. Circuit.

The D.C. Circuit is especially important for Coloradans because:

  • The D.C. Circuit is vital to protecting Colorado’s land, water and air. It is often the first court to hear environmental cases, including cases that challenge nationwide standards adopted under the Clean Air Act, decisions of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and national primary drinking water regulations.
  • The D.C. Circuit has jurisdiction over federal agencies that protect employees’ rights in the workplace. It has upheld federal protections against discrimination and plays an important role in labor relations because it hears appeals from the National Labor Relations Board, including cases involving Colorado workers resolved by the NLRB.
  • Colorado has a large federal presence both in land ownership and employment. The D.C. Circuit’s jurisdiction over all federal agencies guarantees its decisions have an impact on Colorado.

Recent Confirmations:
At the start of 2013, four of the D.C. Circuit's eleven judgeships were vacant, including one that had been open since its previous occupant, John Roberts, was confirmed Chief Justice of the United States in 2005. President Obama was the first President since Truman not to have named a D.C. Circuit judge in his first term. In May 2013, the United States Senate unanimously confirmed Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan as the first new D.C. Circuit judge in the Obama administration and the first federal appellate judge of South Asian heritage in the nation.

In June 2013, President Obama announced nominations to fill the three remaining vacancies on the D.C. Circuit: (1) Judge Robert L. Wilkins of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia; (2) Professor Cornelia T.L. “Nina” Pillard from Georgetown University Law School; and (3) Noted Appellate Attorney Patricia Ann Millett.

In October and November 2013, all three of these nominations were filibustered when the Senate failed to reach the prior 60-vote threshold to end debate and proceed to an up-or-down confirmation vote. Thanks to the rules reform supported by a majority of Senators - including Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet - each nominee was again considered, given a floor vote, and confirmed: Patricia Millett (December 10, 2013), Nina Pillard (December 12, 2013), and Judge Wilkins (January 13, 2014). Now the D.C. Circuit has a full bench of judges to consider these important issues for Colorado and our nation for the first time since 2006.


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