Tag Archives: Patricia Millett

Recap: MSJDN’s Third Annual Reception, May 7 in DC

D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Millett, MSJDN Outgoing President Mary Reding, and MSJDN Member and O’Melveny & Myers Counsel Sarah Zdeb at the 2014 MSJDN Annual Reception.

D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Millett, MSJDN Outgoing President Mary Reding, and MSJDN Member and O’Melveny & Myers Counsel Sarah Zdeb at the 2014 MSJDN Annual Reception.

On Wednesday, May 7, MSJDN members from the DC region and across the country gathered to celebrate another year of accomplishments for the organization. Held at the gorgeous Citi Rooftop Terrace, the event featured the launch of Justice for Military Families, the first national program to provide free legal assistance to military families. Bonnie Carroll, President and Founder of JMF partner Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, spoke about the critical need filled by the program and serving those dealing with the loss of a loved one in service to our country. In a room full of military spouses, Bonnie’s words had special weight and meaning.

Also honored at the reception were MSJDN Member’s Choice Award winner O’Melveny & Myers LLP and Homefront to Hired Partner Award winner Lumen Legal.  The honorable Judge Patricia Millett, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, received the 2014 Professional Excellence Award and told attendees, “Nobody has service built into their beings more than the military and military spouses.” She asked members to never forget, “You are great lawyers, and you also serve our country and your families.” She also addressed the larger legal community, asking them to remember that military spouse attorneys aren’t asking for special treatment, but just an opportunity to serve and use our talents.

The evening ended with MSJDN Immediate Past President Mary Reding passing the gavel to incoming 2014-2015 President Rachel Winkler. To apply for a position on the 2014-2015 Board of Directors and serve with Rachel, see our post here.

UPDATED: Military Spouse Patricia Millett’s Nomination Will Proceed to Vote

Military Spouse JD NetworkToday, over five months after President Obama’s June 4, 2013 nomination of Patricia Millett to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Senate voted to close debate and proceed with the nomination to the judiciary of this exceptional military spouse attorney. Senators pushed through changes to the rules on judicial and executive nominations in the Senate. These changes mean that, instead of needing 60 votes to end debate, a nominee now needs a simple majority vote. This change will not apply to Supreme Court nominees.

A number of hearings were canceled or went into recess Thursday morning as Senator Harry Reid again brought forward Patricia Millett’s nomination. In October, her nomination had failed to overcome the sixty votes needed to close debate, or “cloture.” On Thursday, Sen. Reid twice brought her nomination up for cloture, failing to reach the 60 vote threshold both times. Then, with 53 votes, the Senate changed the threshold needed for cloture to a simple majority, or 51 votes. After the change, the Senate moved immediately to vote on whether to close debate on the nomination, which passed with 55 votes.

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) echoed the concerns of many Republicans, saying such a tactic would be “breaking the rules to change the rules,” according to The Hill newspaper. The Washington Post notes that it alters nearly 225 years of precedent, allows for swift confirmation of executive branch nominees, and creates a path to approve most selections for the federal judiciary.

After this vote, Patricia Millett’s nomination still requires 30 hours of post-cloture debate before the confirmation vote can proceed. According to the Congressional Record, her confirmation vote will occur on Monday, December 9, at 5:30 p.m.

The Military Spouse JD Network, together with supportive and strategic partners, has been part of a groundswell of support to allow Patricia Millett’s nomination to proceed to a vote via the #ConfirmPattie campaign. Congratulations to our leadership and membership for having your voices heard and supporting this highly qualified and committed Military Spouse so that she could be considered for the position.

Patricia Millett’s Importance to Military Spouses

MSJDN has been very open about their strong support for Patricia Ann Millett‘s nomination for U.S. Appeals Court for the Washington, D.C., Circuit. On October 31, 2013, Pattie’s nomination was blocked by Senate Republicans because of unrelated party politics. Pattie has extensive experience in arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and has been called “extraordinarily qualified” by both sides of the aisle.  She is also a military spouse.  There are many fine reasons to support Pattie Millett, but having her succeed is especially important to military spouses.

Perception.  Military spouses are called “dependents” by the government. Many people think that is exactly what they are – dependent on their service member spouse. It’s a perception that must be changed. Having a military spouse like Pattie Millett succeed in becoming a federal judge will serve to help change the prevailing public perception of a dependent military spouse.  In fact, military spouses are intelligent, educated individuals with their own careers and their own value to add to society. They are doctors, nurses, teachers, web site designers, business people, and attorneys. However, many MSJDN members report that one of the stumbling blocks to achieving gainful employment is a perception that they are simply dependents. There is an attitude that the service member’s career takes precedence, and that any job the spouse can obtain is just extra money. Just a job, not a career.

MSJDN conducted a survey of its members in September of this year, which collected information about how perceptions have stunted their careers. Some of our member stories include:

  • Janice* tells of a last-round interview with a mid-sized firm. When an original partner asked her why she had moved so many times, she answered honestly that she was a military spouse. The conversation immediately shifted, and she was not offered the position. Samara had a very similar experience. She felt like the interview came to a distinct halt as soon as she revealed her military spouse status.  The interviewer said, “Oh, I was looking for someone long term.”
  • Kathryn was able to gain legal employment, but was not able to advance. The firm assumed that she would be unable to handle the demanding hours and that she may be too emotional when her husband deployed.
  • Sheniece believes she achieved her current position in part due to the fact she did not reveal her husband’s occupation during the interview process. Melissa was specifically asked if her husband planned on staying active duty.

Many military spouse attorneys report how concerned their employers are with their impending moves, rather than with the value they will be able to bring to a firm. The perception that a military spouse is a short timer continues even though the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in a 2012 longitudinal survey that their average civilian respondent held 11.3 jobs over the ages of 18 to 46 — meaning on average, a member of the general public changes his or her employer every 2.5 years, or six months short of a standard military tour. Also not considered is that many military families are able to extend their tours in certain areas. Additionally, the majority of military spouse attorneys are very open to telecommuting. Even when talking with respect to potential length of employment, there is essentially no difference between hiring a military spouse and anyone else. If the perception can be shifted, this hurdle can also be overcome.

Having a smart, capable military spouse attorney in a high-visibility position will change the perception of the military spouse. This is one reason why Pattie’s confirmation as a federal judge is so important to MSJDN.

Representation.  Star Trek’s Nyota Uhura was played by Nichelle Nichols, a black actress, on the original TV series. When then-nine-year-old Whoopi Goldberg first saw Uhura on the show, she famously exclaimed, “I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, ‘Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’  I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be…” 

Representation is motivating and inspiring. Having Pattie Millett succeed in being confirmed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is so important to all military spouses, especially to MSJDN members who can see part of themselves in her.

Our member survey data reinforced MSJDN’s regular assertion that being a military spouse while trying to maintain a career can be a very disheartening prospect.

  • Though Mariana has a JD/MBA, she is dejected about job prospects due to her military spouse status.
  • Shawn stopped looking for employment in the legal field after relocating with his service member spouse to a new jurisdiction where he is not licensed, as did Emily.
  • Samantha has been unemployed for two years, but is still looking for a job in the legal field.

Numerous MSJDN members are under-employed, and feel frustrated that they are able to offer so much more to their communities.

Pattie shows that military spouses can have their own careers, not just temporary jobs. MSJDN members who sacrificed to earn their juris doctor look to Pattie and see that they, too, will be able to effect the positive changes they dreamed about as wide-eyed law students, all while serving their country as a military spouse. Witnessing one of their own achieve the highest levels of the profession is motivating and personally inspiring on a very deep level.

Military Issues.  Though the digital age has flattened the world, the legal profession retains many aspects of the traditional notion of employment. Very few employers allow such options as flexible hours to account for spousal deployment obligations or telecommuting to reduce change of duty disruptions or travel restrictions. Another issue that many military spouse attorneys report having is problems in obtaining licensing so they may practice in various states. One of MSJDN’s primary missions is to work with state licensing boards to make the process more feasible for military spouses who are moving with their service member.

As a military spouse herself for over 15 years, Pattie has a unique perspective on many military issues. She knows the topics first hand because she has lived them, and she understands how her decisions will affect every day life for service members. She can help. Will she address MSJDN specific issues directly, and will all her decisions be in line with their way of thinking? Of course not, but knowing that her vote on the D.C. Circuit comes from a place of understanding a military spouse perspective is incredibly important.

MSJDN members are very proud of their service members’ selfless service and the supportive role they are able to play. That is one reason that, as a family, they decide to continue their military service to their beloved country. While there are admittedly frustrations in the career of the civilian spouse, the immediate reaction is not to abandon the military way of life.  It is to try to overcome the frustrations.

As lawyers, we are taught to advocate justice, equality, and the best way of doing things. MSJDN members are trying to change perceptions and rules on an individual level to integrate their two worlds.  Confirming Patricia Millett to the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit is a very important step in bridging the divide. MSJDN continues to offer its strong support and encourages others to voice their support for this overall amazing candidate as well.

*All names are pseudonyms.

Pattie Millett and the DC Circuit: The Fight for One of Us Continues

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Last Thursday, the Senate blocked the nomination of military spouse Patricia Millett for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeal. Her nomination needed 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster and advance in the Senate, and the 55-38 vote, with three Senators responding present, meant she would not receive an up-or-down-confirmation vote.

As military spouse attorneys, the blocking of her nomination is particularly frustrating. Last week, Military Spouse JD Network leadership traveled to the Senate to ask Senators to put partisan politics aside and confirm this highly qualified nominee to the bench. There’s no debate over Pattie’s qualifications; the question of those who filibustered her nomination is whether or not the seat that John Roberts vacated in 2005 should be filled at all.

We know how hard it is for someone married to the military to gain any professional traction. We know that the odds are stacked against you, which is what makes Pattie’s story so much more remarkable. After 12 years of war, sequestration, shutdown, and a sky-high unemployment rate among military spouses, military family morale is at an all-time low. Stories like Pattie’s give us hope that marrying into the military doesn’t mean giving up your dreams of a career.

Military families need to believe that the nation they serve values their service. What we saw in last week’s vote puts that into question. But MSJDN will continue the fight for one of our own, and we hope that Senators can see past the partisan debate to #ConfirmPattie. 

NEWS ROUNDUP:

The Blog of Legal Times: Senate Blocks Patricia Millett’s Nomination to DC Circuit

The Atlantic: The Millett Nomination: A Case in Reverse Affirmative Action by Senate Republicans

New York Times: Senate Republicans Block 2 Obama Nominees

New York Times: The Politics of Petulance (Editorial)

Military Spouse Magazine: Don’t Support Pattie Just Because She is a Military Spouse

SpouseBuzz: Why You Should Help a MilSpouse Land Senate Confirmation

NextGenMilSpouse: Rally Behind Fellow MilSpouse Patricia Millett

Faith & Family at the Core of Military Spouse DC Circuit Nominee Patricia Millett

Pattie & Bob after his homecoming in 2005.

From the beginning of her career, Patricia Millett had the markings of a legal rock star. From Harvard Law School to the head of Akin Gump’s Supreme Court practice, and now a nomination to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. But somewhere in that rocket-propelled career, Pattie (as she is known to friends and family) fell in love with a Sailor. And became a mom. And earned a black belt. All while living a genuine, intentional, faith-based life of success. And these qualities and experiences, even more than her legal fame, are what make this milspouse attorney the complete package.

In a special preview of our bi-monthly member newsletter, Bars & Stripes is publishing this profile of Pattie. Click to read the full profile.

A broad range of military and civilian legal leaders have endorsed Pattie’s nomination. Key factor in these endorsements has been not only her stellar professional record and reputation, but also her experience as a military spouse.

The D.C. Circuit is often the final appellate court for cases concerning the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration. The nature of the D.C. Circuit’s caseload make it “imperative” to include a military spouse on the bench, according to Karl Monger, retired Major in the Army Reserves and Executive Director of GallantFew, a veteran’s service organization.

That sentiment is echoed by Karen Kelly, wife of Marine General John Kelly, Commander of U.S. Southern Command. In a letter supporting Pattie’s nomination, Mrs. Kelly explains the “unique life experience” of milfams needs to be represented in the D.C. Circuit’s bench.

Pattie’s advocacy has already helped military members. Attorney and veteran Matthew Z. Crotty, notes that her successful representation in Staub v. Proctor Hosp., 131 S.Ct. 1186 (2011) has made it easier to hold employers liable for employment discrimination when adverse employment actions are influenced by an employee’s Reserve or National Guard duties.

Maj. Gen. Carl McNair (Ret.), summed up Pattie’s service to her country, her community, and the legal profession:  “Few have done as much — none have done more.”

MSJDN has always recognized that military spouses have a special set of skills to offer in the modern legal marketplace. We are encouraged to see that recognition reflected in the support for Pattie’s nomination.