A Triad High School graduate is among those whose names are being floated to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died over the weekend.
U.S. Justice Patricia Millett, 52, has served as a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia since she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2013.
Millett was born in the state of Maine, but raised in Marine, in Madison County, and graduated from Triad High School in 1981 — along with former U.S. Attorney Steve Wigginton.
Now her name is on a short list of potential nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, as reported by multiple news organizations Monday.
Efforts to reach Millett were unsuccessful.
Triad Superintendent Leigh Lewis said that while she was a student at the same time as Millett, she did not know her personally. “But this is exciting for our district,” Lewis said. “We know that we’ve had lots of successful graduates, but this is a testament on how our graduates go on to make a difference for everyone.”
After leaving Triad, Millett attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she graduated summa cum laude. She then attended Harvard Law School, graduating magna cum laude in 1988. She interned for a member of Parliament in London during the summer between college and law school, and clerked for various judges throughout and after her education.
From 1992-96, Millett served as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, while teaching at George Washington University Law School. She moved to the office of solicitor general in 1996, where she served until she joined Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, eventually rising to partner and head of Supreme Court Practice.
In 2008, she was a volunteer legal adviser for President Obama’s campaign, providing legal assistance for voter protection teams in Ohio and New Hampshire in case of election challenges. But her primary law practice focused on appellate and Supreme Court cases, according to the questionnaire she provided the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee upon her nomination to the federal bench. Her clients ranged from death row inmates to the Salvation Army to Native American tribes and individuals, nearly all in federal court and mostly in civil proceedings.
She drafted Supreme Court briefs, prepared senior attorneys for arguments, and has argued 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. She has even served as an occasional contributor to SCOTUSBlog, an independent public service blog that provides information and analysis on Supreme Court cases and the business of the court.
This is exciting for our district. We know that we’ve had lots of successful graduates, but this is a testament on how our graduates go on to make a difference for everyone.
Triad Superintendent Leigh Lewis
Senate Republicans have vowed to oppose any nomination until the next president takes office.
If Millett’s potential nomination leads to a Senate battle, it won’t be her first. Millett was one of three judicial nominees whose confirmation process became controversial in the U.S. Senate. She was nominated in 2013 to replace Judge John Roberts, who had been confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005. She was confirmed out of committee in a 10-8 vote along party lines, but the Senate was tied up in filibusters over federal appointees. In November, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid invoked what was colloquially known as “the nuclear option” and changed Senate rules so that only a simple majority was necessary to approve candidates, rather than 60 percent.
In the end, Millett was confirmed in a 55-43 vote with two senators voting “present.” She has served on the bench ever since.
Millett and her husband, Robert King, live in Virginia and have two children. King is retired from the U.S. Navy and was deployed for nine months when their children were young and Millett was arguing cases before the Supreme Court, according to news reports. According to her judiciary questionnaire, she also has a second-degree black belt.
Among other nominees listed in national news reports as possible successors to Scalia: Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who would be the first African-American woman nominated; Ninth Circuit Judge Paul Watford, a former prosecutor; and Sri Srinivasan, who was approved in a 97-0 vote by the Senate two years ago as D.C. Circuit Judge. If confirmed, he would be the first Indian-American Supreme Court judge.
Other potential nominees include California Attorney General Kamala Harris, D.C. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland, Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Jacqueline Nguyen, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sheldon Whitehouse, former attorney general of Rhode Island and now a U.S. senator.