Cornelia T.L. “Nina” Pillard

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

  • Court Circuit Court

On June 4, 2013, President Obama nominated Cornelia Pillard to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Professor Pillard is an accomplished litigator whose work includes nine Supreme Court oral arguments and briefs in more than 25 Supreme Court cases. In his nomination of Pillard, President Obama praised her public service work and legal expertise, stating that “Nina Pillard’s career has been defined by an unshakeable commitment to the public good…today, Nina is a professor at Georgetown and, if confirmed, would continue the D.C. Circuit’s strong tradition of distinguished scholars going on to serve as judges — from Antonin Scalia to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”


Nina Pillard was born in March 1961, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She earned a bachelor’s degree with Distinction in history from Yale College, where she graduated magna cum laudein 1983. She graduated magna cum laude in 1987 from Harvard Law School, where she served as an editor on the Harvard Law Review.

Pillard began her legal career as a clerk with Judge Louis Pollak of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. She then held the Marvin M. Karpatkin fellowship at the American Civil Liberties Union, and subsequently was a staff attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. In 1994, Pillard joined the Office of the Solicitor General. Professor Pillard joined the Georgetown University Law Center faculty in 1997, specializing in constitutional law and civil procedure.

From 1998 through 2000, Pillard served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, before returning to Georgetown Law, where she serves as faculty director of the school’s Supreme Court Institute. In 2012, the program held moot courts for every case argued before the Court.

Legal Experience

Nina Pillard’s legal experience includes successful litigation of some of the most critical victories for civil rights in recent history. For example, in 2003, with the support of the George W. Bush Administration, she defended the Family and Medical Leave Act in Nevada Dept. of Human Resources v. Hibbs, winning a 6-3 decision authored by Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

Pillard began her post-clerkship legal career as a fellow at the ACLU, before joining the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund as a staff attorney. With LDF, she handled trials and appeals on behalf of victims of racial discrimination. Pillard argued cases in federal district courts and in four different federal circuit courts of appeals. She prepared more than 10 appellate briefs, including two merits briefs before the Supreme Court.

As Assistant to the Solicitor General, Pillard briefed and argued cases on behalf of the federal government before the U.S. Supreme Court on issues ranging from disability rights to patent law to whistleblower protection. Pillard drafted briefs for the United States in United States v. Virginia, a case that originated with the George H. W. Bush Administration, which won female students access to Virginia Military Institute and expanded educational equality for women. She also defended the legal immunities of law enforcement officials facing litigation for reasonable decisions made in the course of investigations. Altogether, Pillard argued six cases before the Supreme Court and briefed approximately 15 cases as Assistant to the Solicitor General.

As Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel, Pillard was responsible for advising executive officials and agencies on matters of national policy and legal interpretation, and for managing a substantial legal and non-legal staff. Most of the legal work performed by OLC is confidential due to the critical nature of the issues the Office addresses, which range from national security to executive privilege.

At Georgetown Law, Pillard teaches advanced courses on constitutional law and civil procedure and co-directs the law school’s Supreme Court Institute. She has authored and co-authored several scholarly works, participated in numerous panels, and contributed to other publications in her time as a professor. Her directorship of Georgetown Law’s Supreme Court Institute has allowed Pillard to mentor hundreds of law students and to participate in the preparation of nearly every case argued before the Supreme Court. She has assisted lawyers from across the ideological spectrum, acting as a mock “justice” in moot arguments.

Professor Pillard’s career has spanned a daunting array of legal areas, including representation of employees, consumers, and victims of unlawful discrimination. She has both litigated to ensure a fairer criminal justice system and defended law enforcement officials accused of wrongdoing. Her experience has touched on issues of arbitration, patent law, civil rights, national security, regulatory law, employment law, and consumer law. As the American Bar Association unanimously found, Nina Pillard is well qualified to serve as a federal appellate judge.

Professional and Community Activities

Nina Pillard is a member of the Bar in Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia. She serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the American Arbitration Association and has been a board member since 2005. She is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States and the United States Courts of Appeals for the Second, Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, and Ninth Circuits.

Pillard was Chair and an active reader on an American Bar Association Reading Committee that evaluated the writings of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito for the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.