Judge Wilkins nominated to 2nd highest court

Marlene Jones | 6/4/2013, 12:45 p.m.
Judge Wilkins

President Barack Obama today nominated an African American judge to the second highest court in the United States. Among the three candidates for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was Judge Robert Leon Wilkins, who currently serving as a U.S. district judge for D.C. The other nominees are Patricia Ann Millett, a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP in Washington; and Georgetown University law professor Cornelia T.L. Pillard.

The U.S. Senate must confirm Wilkins and the other nominees before they serve. His path to confirmation may be clear based on his history with the Senate, which confirmed him to his current position without opposition in 2010.

The president, in his remarks at the Rose Garden while announcing the nominations, asked the Senate to abide by their "constitutional duty to promptly consider judicial nominees for confirmation."

"Now, throughout my first term as president, the Senate too often failed to do that," said the president. "Time and again, congressional Republicans cynically used Senate rules and procedures to delay and even block qualified nominees from coming to a full vote.

"As a result, my judicial nominees have waited three times longer to receive confirmation votes than those of my Republican predecessor. Let me repeat that: My nominees have taken three times longer to receive confirmation votes than those of my Republican predecessor. These individuals that I nominate are qualified. When they were given an up or down vote in the Senate -- when they were finally given an up or down vote in the Senate, every one of them was confirmed. So this is not about principled opposition. This is about political obstruction."

This is the second time Obama has called on Wilkins to serve. He also nominated him in 2010.

"Before serving with distinction as a federal judge, Robert spent eight years in private practice and a decade as a public defender here in Washington, D.C., providing legal representation to defendants who could not afford an attorney. And throughout his career, Robert has distinguished himself as a principled attorney of the utmost integrity,” said the president

The D.C. Circuit is often described as the second most powerful court in the U.S. after the Supreme Court, because it decides many cases with national implications such as those on environmental regulations and national-security policy.

Wilkins began his legal career as a law clerk for the Judge Earl B. Gilliam of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California from 1989 to 1990. He worked at the Public Defender Service in the District of Columbia from 1990 until 2000, beginning as a staff attorney and later serving as Chief of Special Litigation, where he represented the agency’s policy positions. From 2000 to 2002, Judge Wilkins spent the majority of his time working to establish the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, serving on the Presidential Commission and as Chair of the Site and Building Committee. From 2002 to 2011, Wilkins was a partner at Venable LLP in Washington, D.C., where he focused on white collar criminal defense, intellectual property, and complex commercial litigation.

In 2008, The Legal Times named Wilkins one of the “90 Greatest Washington Lawyers of the Last 30 Years.” In 2002, the National Law Journal named Judge Wilkins one of the “40 Under 40 Most Successful Young Litigators in America.” Additionally, he was a founding member of the D.C. Access to Justice Commission and has served on the D.C. Advisory Commission on Sentencing, the D.C. Truth-In-Sentencing Commission, and the D.C. Juvenile Justice Advisory Group.

Wilkins was born in Muncie, Indiana, and grew up both there and in Cincinnati, Ohio. He received his B.S. cum laude in 1986 from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and his J.D. in 1989 from Harvard Law School, where he served as an editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review and as a C. Clyde Ferguson Human Rights Fellow.