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Alumnus Robert Wilkins Breezes through Senate Committee's Federal Judicial Confirmation

September 17, 2013


Federal Judge Nominee: Robert Wilkins, a 1986 chemical engineering alumnus, earned praise from President Barack Obama as a “principled attorney of the utmost integrity.”

Alumnus Robert L. Wilkins has passed the first test of his confirmation to become a judge of the influential United States District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, earning approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Now, it is onto a vote by the full Senate.

Given the contentious relations between President Barack Obama and Capitol Hill, the committee review turned out to be a relatively easy confirmation hearing for Wilkins, the 1986 chemical engineering graduate who is now a U.S. district judge on Washington's federal court.

Of the nine justices currently on the Supreme Court, four came from the D.C. Circuit Court.

In his hearing testimony, Wilkins described his views on judicial empathy (striving to give even consideration to all sides), the court's role in righting societal wrongs (courts must first follow the law) and what his law clerks would say about him ("They would say I'm tough but fair"), according to reporting by Legal Times.

“I enjoy being a trial court judge and have enjoyed it for the last two and a half years,” Wilkins stated. “I have had the privilege to serve on some three-judge panel cases, where I've worked with colleagues, including colleagues on the court of appeals. So, I've experience the collaborative decision making that entails and I've enjoyed that."

President Obama has praised Wilkins as a "principled attorney of the utmost integrity."

The National Bar Association (NBA) applauded Wilkins’ nomination, pointing out his distinguished career and impeccable judicial record.

"Judge Wilkins is a respected appellate jurist, celebrated litigator, effective community mobilizer, and groundbreaking civil rights leader," states NBA President John Page. "The D.C. Circuit Court will benefit from Judge Wilkins' diverse life experiences and commitment to excellence."

There has been no indication from Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid on when he might push for full Senate votes on Wilkins’ nomination.

After graduating from Rose-Hulman and Harvard Law School, Wilkins was a clerk for the U.S. District Court’s Southern District of California. He later served as a staff attorney and head of special litigation for D.C.’s Public Defender Service, and practiced as a partner with Venable LLP, specializing in white collar defense, intellectual property, and complex civil litigation.

Wilkins has been named one of the “40 under 40 most successful young litigators in America” by the National Law Journal and one of the “90 Greatest Washington Lawyers of the Last 30 years” by the Legal Times.

Wilkins was nominated for the federal bench, along with Patricia Ann Millett, a Washington, D.C., appellate lawyer, and Cornelia Pillard, a Georgetown University law professor.

"These are no hacks. They are incredibly accomplished lawyers by all accounts," Obama remarked when announcing the three nominations in a Rose Garden ceremony.