NASW social justice brief discusses Obama nominees

Oct 23, 2013

By Paul R. Pace, News staff

NASW has issued a social justice brief regarding President Obama’s nominations to the D.C. Circuit Court in June.

Mel Wilson, manager of the NASW Department of Social Justice and Human Rights, authored the brief, titled “President Obama Nominates Three to the D.C. Circuit Court: Why Should Social Workers Care?”

Wilson points out that Obama’s nominations have points of view that correlate with NASW’s commitment to social justice and human rights and have the potential to bring philosophical balance to the court.

The D.C. Circuit Court is officially called the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit. It is one of 12 regional appellate courts in the U.S. The D.C. Circuit, however, has been cited as being just after the U.S. Supreme Court in level of importance. This is because it has heard and decided on cases, such as the Affordable Care Act, that affect the policies of many federal agencies, which in turn impact the entire nation.

“The power of the D.C. Circuit Court and other federal courts in the judiciary is such that its rulings can either impede the advancement of social justice or become the defenders of rights of the country’s vulnerable and unempowered population,” the brief says.

It highlights that the D.C. Circuit Court has become conservative in its recent rulings, which have sided with corporate and industry interests over individual workers and consumers, blocked Wall Street reforms and undermined labor rights. The brief lists court decisions in recent years and tells how each conflict with NASW’s policy statements in “Social Work Speaks.”

The Obama nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court are Patricia Ann Millett, an appeals lawyer in Washington, D.C.; Cornelia Pillard, a law professor at Georgetown University; and Robert Wilkins, a U.S. District Court judge for the district.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider the nomination of Wilkins on Oct. 3. The Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed Pillard on Sept. 19 and confirmed Millett on Aug. 1.

However, the full U.S. Senate has to vote on each nominee before he or she can be seated on the D.C. Circuit Court, Wilson said.

A confirmation vote by the full Senate has not been scheduled. It is anticipated to take place in late October or early November. It is likely that the vote for each nominee will be held separately, Wilson said.

A copy of the NASW brief is available here.

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