Another week, another GOP filibuster of an Obama nominee. This time though, the obstruction hits closer to the Hilltop.
On Tuesday, Nov. 12, Senate Republicans blocked the nomination of Georgetown Law professor Cornelia “Nina” T. L. Pillard, who was tapped by the administration for a seat on the powerful U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Senate Democrats fell four short of the 60-vote minimum to close argument. The count was 56 to 41 following party lines.
Republicans are troubled by what they deem as Pillard’s liberal judicial philosophy, especially relating to social issues like abortion. The D.C. Circuit Court is widely considered the second most powerful judicial body in the country, and Republicans have made a habit of refusing to fill vacancies on the bench. As it stands, three seats of the 11 on the Court remain vacant, leaving conservative judges in control. That balance would change, however, if Pillard and the president’s other two nominees were confirmed by the Senate.
Cognizant of this, the GOP has refused to approve any of Obama’s nominees, saying the Court’s caseload is not heavy enough to justify filling the vacancies. Many court-watchers have pointed out that while there may be fewer cases, they are highly complex and demand more time, but Republicans have relented. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has even introduced a bill to reduce the number of judges on the Court from 11 to eight, and has repeatedly called the president’s attempt to fill the seats “court packing.”
Pillard is nothing if not a sterling nominee in the traditional sense. Supporters say her intellectual acumen is unrivaled, having graduated magna cum laude from Yale College and Harvard Law School. She is especially well-versed in high court cases, having briefed more than 25 cases in the Supreme Court and argued nine before it. According to a Georgetown Law article from June, Pillard has also litigated cases in federal courts of appeals and trial courts all over the country.
All this gave many legal professionals hope that Pillard’s character could overcome partisan squabbling. As Georgetown Law Dean William M. Treanorsaid, “Nina will be an extraordinary judge. She has a superb background as a government official and a Supreme Court advocate … Her great judgment and experience, her deep knowledge of the law, and her commitment to the rule of law and to justice are a rare combination and the perfect qualifications for an appellate judge.”
On June 9, Bindhu Pamarthi (L ’15) was crowned Miss District of Columbia, having competed in beauty pageants since she was 12. Vox was fortunate enough to have her answer some questions on her pageant experience through the years, though we didn’t touch on what gender income disparity says about society. Go here to watch K Street Magazine’s interview with Pamarthi, who will go on to compete in the Miss America pageant come September.
Vox: What was the most important part of winning Miss D.C. for you?
Pamarthi: I started competing in pageants in the South when I was 12 years old. As the child of Indian immigrants, I was initially something of a misfit in that world. I lacked what seemed like the requisite southern accent, and my wardrobe was simplistic and under-bedazzled. I remember getting a pretty cold welcome from the other contestants and their “pageant-moms.” I was too naïve, then, and lacked the self-awareness to understand that my ethnicity made me different. My beautiful, Indian mother was not so oblivious, yet she never said a word about it to me. She ignored the unwelcoming stares and the snickering mothers. She focused on me because she knew that in my “Little Miss Sunshine-esque” way, I was so happy to be in a pageant. Then, I won.
Insensitive questioning, offensive gestures, and unfriendly stares are just things that I have grown up seeing my parents faced with. That my beloved mother could silently think, “At least my daughter can beat you and your kids in a pageant” was quiet redemption. For the most part, that was also true. In my eleven years in pageantry, I won three state titles that took me to national finals in Anaheim, California and Nashville, Tennessee. All three times, I outcompeted hundreds to thousands to take my spot in the top three. Track record aside, this victory is sweetest because my mother can finally know that even as closed-minded people will rudely claim that we are not American, her daughter just might be Miss America. Either way, as the representative of the nation’s capital at the iconic competition in Atlantic City, I was able to make my mom proud. That means everything to me.
Vox:What’s the experience of being both a Georgetown Law student and a pageant competitor been like for you? How do you navigate those two worlds?
Yesterday, President Barack Obamanominated Georgetown Law professor Cornelia Pillard to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia alongside U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins and D.C. lawyer Patricia Millet. According to the her University bio page, Pillard graduated undergrad from Yale and went on from there to Harvard Law School, where the other two appointees also attended.
Pillard currently teaches civil procedure, constitutional law, and upper-level seminars. She also co-directs the Supreme Court Institute, which helps lawyers prepare for Supreme Court arguments. From her position at the University, she has continued to appear before the Supreme Court, where she has argued nine cases. Pillard is also a former attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Obama made the announcement in the Rose Garden Tuesday to challenge Republicans not to delay the appointments as they have in the past.
“These are open seats. And the Constitution demands that I nominate qualified individuals to fill those seats,” Obama said. “What I’m doing today is my job. I need the Senate to do its job.”
It was the first time Obama announced a non-federal appointment at a public event. The Federal Appeals Court for the District of Columbia traditionally handles high-profile federal cases as they make their way to the Supreme Court. As a result, a judgeship on the court is often viewed as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court. Four sitting Supreme court justices, including Georgetown alum Antonin Scalia (COL ’57) got their start on the D.C. Circuit Court.
Maybe now when you Google “Georgetown Meth,” news of 2010′s infamous meth-but-actually-DMT lab won’t be the first result.
Late last week, the Washington Postreported that Marc Gersen (SFS ’04), a Georgetown graduate and a law student at the time of his arrest one year ago, has been sentenced to four years in prison for his role in the sale of methamphetamine.
As an undergraduate, Gersen was a member of (what the Post labels the “prestigious”) Philodemic Society and Delta Phi Epsilon Foreign Service Fraternity. As a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley, Gersen had trouble with his dissertation, which ultimately led to a crisis. He dropped out of Berkeley and enrolled in Georgetown Law, where he excelled despite having to sink time into running his drug operation.
Gersen’s friends, family, and colleagues all told the court of his high intellect and good moral character. Even Gersen’s professor wrote a letter testifying to his good will: “His law school performance—remarkable under any circumstances—is truly incredible given the other things going on in his life,” wrote Gersen’s law professor, Louis Michael Seidman, according to the Post. “The short of it is that Marc is an extraordinary young man who has made some extraordinary mistakes.”
At the same time, Gersen reportedly bragged about evading detection for so long, according to prosecutors. He also struggled with an addiction to the drug himself.
So while most reports of meth at Georgetown are either premature or completely inaccurate, even Georgetown students lose their way and make grossly irresponsible decisions.
But, still, why does Georgetown keep getting associated with meth?
Francis E. Jones Jr. (LAW ’48), founder of the Georgetown Chimes in 1946 and Georgetown Law School graduate, died Dec. 22 at the age of 92.
Jones, who had just returned from five years of military service in World War II to study law and play football, founded the Chimes after the school’s rule allowing graduate students to play college football changed. His step-daughter Carola Roufs said he would sing in the bathroom, which he said had “the best acoustics” and would ask others to join him to recruit “the best voices.” Roufs said he recruited the three other original members in bathrooms.
In his creation of the Chimes, Jones was influenced by his undergraduate experience at Yale University, where he encountered the Whiffenpoofs a cappella group and the Skull and Bones, according to Roufs’ son Anthony Garcia (LAW ’15). Though he was not able to join either group, his goal with the Chimes was to create a group where a love of music and “a common purpose created a bond among people that was stronger than any contention” that could arise, Garcia said. Kevin O’Brien (COL ’65), a Chimes member, said that he also found his love for music by singing recreationally with his large family. [O'Brien bears no relation to Georgetown's Vice President for Mission and Ministry.]
Many close to him say Jones was by no means surprised that the Chimes grew so much in both size and stature. O’Brien attributes the success of the group to its selectivity and similarity to a fraternity. Once a student is accepted into the group they have a training period and then a waiting period before they can become full members. O’Brien said his time as a trainee and then neophyte, a sort of Chime-in-waiting, lasted about 15 months.
“I thought that was an interesting structure, and I thought that was one that helped prepare an individual for the pressure of singing,” said O’Brien. “That structure has been one of the primary reasons the chimes have become so successful.”
Founding the Chimes, though Jones referred to it as his greatest achievement, was not his only noteworthy accomplishment. After graduating from Georgetown with his Juris Doctor in 1948, he returned to the University and earned his Masters of Law in 1952, Roufs said. He then proceeded to defeat his criminal law professor in court to deport the mob boss Frank Costello while working with the Department of Justice, according to Timothy Naughton (MSB ’77), the prior president of the Chimes. Jones continued his law career as a professor at USC for about 35 years, Roufs said.
Austin Tice (SFS ’02, LAW ’13), a freelance journalist for the Washington Post, McClatchy, and numerous other publications, is likely to have been taken into custody by the Syrian government, according to an article published today on McClatchy’s website. Tice, who had spent the summer in Syria traveling with rebel forces and reporting firsthand on the country’s civil war, has been missing since August 23, when his family reported that they had not heard from him in over a week.
According to McClatchy, a publishing company that distributes to newspapers, the law student, journalist, and former Marine infantry officer has been reported by Czech diplomats to be in the custody of the Syrian government after being detained by army forces in Daraya, a suburb of Damascus. The article also includes that the U.S. State Department has used official channels in attempt to discern information about Tice’s location and wellbeing, but offers no official information:
The U.S. State Department says the Syrian government has not responded to inquiries about Tice that were made through official channels and that U.S. diplomats were “working through our Czech protecting power in Syria to get more information on his welfare and whereabouts.”
The Washington Post offers similar information, adding a message from the publication’s executive editor urging his safe release:
“We’re investigating reports that Austin Tice is in the custody of Syrian authorities,” Marcus Brauchli, The Post’s executive editor, said in a statement. “If the reports are true, we urge these authorities to release him promptly, unharmed. Journalists should never be detained for doing their work, even — and especially — in difficult circumstances.”
Tice, who, like many journalists covering the conflict, entered Syria without a visa, has attracted the attention of advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, as well as the Committee to Protect Journalists, which reports that Syria is currently the most dangerous place in the world for journalists.
Earlier today, the family of a Georgetown University law student Austin Tice reported that they have not heard from their son in over a week. Tice (SFS ’02, LAW ’13), 31-years-old, has spent the past summer in Syria reporting as a freelance journalist for the Washington Post and other major news organizations. His articles provided unmatched first-hand insight into the country’s civil war.
According to the Post, Tice was one of the few Western journalists reporting from Damcascus in July. “We’re focused intensively on trying to ascertain his whereabouts and ensure his safe return,” executive editor of the Post Marcus Brauchli said in a statement released today. “Austin is a talented and courageous journalist whose work has helped to shape the world’s understanding of this humanitarian and political crisis.”
Tice also contributed several articles to McClatchy, a publishing company that distributes to several daily newspapers. McClatchy Vice President Anders Gyllenhaal said in a statement that the editors have sought help from the State Department and Syrian intermediaries to retrace Tice’s location.
The Post published today Tice’s most recent Facebook post in which he defended his decision to go to Syria in the middle of an extremely dangerous civil war. The post, dated July 25, was an attempt to assuage the fears of his family and friends and explain the importance of his efforts.
In the Facebook post, Tice claims that the “American pioneer spirit” of the past is lost “sometime between when our granddads licked the Nazis and when we started putting warnings on our coffee cups about the temperature of our beverage,” he wrote. “No, I don’t have a death wish – I have a life wish. So I’m living, in a place, at a time and with a people where life means more than anywhere I’ve ever been – because every single day people here lay down their own for the sake of others. Coming here to Syria is the greatest thing I’ve ever done, and it’s the greatest feeling of my life.”
Vox will continue to update this post as investigations continue.
The White House announced yesterday that Kathryn Ruemmler (LAW ’96) – a Georgetown Law graduate – would replace Bob Bauer as President Obama’s legal counsel at the end of the month.
“Kathy is an outstanding lawyer with impeccable judgment,” President Obama said in a press release. “Together, Bob and Kathy have led the White House Counsel’s office, and Kathy will assure that it continues to successfully manage its wide variety of responsibilities.”
While at Georgetown Law, Ruemmler was editor-in-chief of the Georgetown Law Journal. After graduation, she worked as a law clerk for Honorable Timothy K. Lewis of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. She subsequently served as associate counsel in the Clinton Administration. In 2001, she was appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney.
In 2003, Ruemmler was picked to assist in the federal prosecution of energy giant Enron’s founder, Kenneth Lay, and former CEO Jeffrey Skilling for accounting fraud. She became deputy director of the Enron Task Force in 2005.
President Obama appointed Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice in 2009. She joined the Office of Counsel to the President in 2010.
Each year, the Georgetown University Law Center hosts Home Court D.C., a charity basketball game featuring Members of Congress and GULC professors.
Although this year’s game–which was held Wednesday evening and raised more than $400,000 for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless–ended in a 61 to 49 defeat of the Hoya Lawyas by the Hill’s Angels, one GULC student shocked the crowd.
After winning a raffle opportunity to take a half court shot for $10,000, GULC student Alladin Jaloudi made an incredible shot.
Remember the Georgetown Law grad who sold his degree online? Well, it looks like he started a trend—and even former U.S. Attorney Generals aren’t safe from it.
On April 15, 1994, Georgetown Law gave Janet Reno an honorary law degree. More than fifteen years later, that piece of parchment found itself in an auction lot of Presidential and political memorabilia at a U.S. Government Surplus auction. CIE Surplus, an asset liquidation company in Northern Virginia, bought the degree and opened an Ebay auction for it. (Bidding began at $9.99.)