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Cornelia Pillard’s disingenous testimony — the deception begins early

Cornelia Pillard, whom President Obama nominated to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning. Her testimony was articulate, polished, and at times charming. She presented herself as moderate, measured, and non-partisan.

Unfortunately, Pillard also struck me as astonishingly disingenuous, even by the modern standards of the judicial confirmation process.

When Pillard sought to ingratiate herself by fondly referring to the Virginia Military Institute (she was a lawyer in the case that forced VMI to admit women), one would never have suspected that a few years ago, in an article subtitled “The Virginia Military Institute, Where the Men are Men (and so are the Women),” Pillard derisively observed:

VMI is, after all, a tiny, rather eccentric and anachronistic military college in Virginia. Most Americans who were even aware of the Institute’s existence before the litigation probably responded, at least in part, with a kind of shoulder-shrugging puzzlement about why anyone – male or female – would ever want to go to a college like VMI. The chance to become one of approximately 1300 cadets, marching around a toy-castle campus in uniforms, crew cuts and silly hats. . .hardly seems like the kind of opportunity from which anyone should worry much about being excluded.

Nor would one have guessed that, although Pillard had based her attack on VMI’s all-male policy on the view that “many women are. . .physically stronger than many men,” she later complained that VMI evaluates women “according to physical fitness standards set for men,” and specifically that VMI’s five pull-up requirement is discriminatory.

Thus, the VMI matter exemplifies both Pillard’s penchant, when speaking candidly, for injudicious and divisive rhetoric (she has also spoken of “conscripting women into maternity” and of treating women as “a class of presumptive breeders”), and for using egalitarian principles as a Trojan horse for the special treatment of women. Today, Pillard was not speaking candidly.

Similarly, when Pillard praised Justice Robert Jackson’s patriotism (in response to the question of which Supreme Court Justice she admires), one would not have supposed that Pillard is the founding Academic Co-Director and Professor at the Center for Transnational Legal Studies (CTLS). That organization’s mission is, as Pillard has said, “based on recognition that now we need to make some shifts from nation- or region-centric to a more broadly transnational, even global, orientation.” Pillard concurs with her fellow founding CTLS professor and sometime co-author Muthucumaraswamy Sornarajah, that transnational legal studies should not seek to promote U.S. interests, but rater should promote “fairer and more environmentally sustainable economic development.” Sornarajah praises the transnational movement for finally reining in “the age of greed” brought about by American “hegemony.”

If this is American patriotism, it is a form unknown to Justice Jackson.

Pillard was equally disingenuous when it came to answering questions from Committee members, as I’ll show in my follow-up post.

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