Obama may have outsmarted GOP on judges

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Barack Obama,Judicial Branch,Appeals Courts,Republican Party

When President Obama announced Tuesday that his three new picks for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit "are no hacks," some GOP critics of his bid to pack three liberals on the court found themselves nodding in agreement.

"They're not hacks because they haven't done much," said a key critic on background. "They were perfectly vetted to have no paper trail. It's like boxing with ghosts," said the critic.

Publicly, the GOP is asking what's Obama's rush, since the vacancies to the court often called the second most important in the nation have been open for years. Republicans say it's a bold move by Obama to fill the seats with liberal friends of his agenda.

"It's hard to imagine the rationale for nominating three judges at once for this court given the many vacant emergency seats across the country, unless your goal is to pack the court to advance a certain policy agenda," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But Republicans on Capitol Hill and in court-related conservative think tanks and advocacy groups who have been probing the backgrounds of the trio told Secrets that there isn't the typically deep record of decisions and speeches to pore over as there have been for past judicial nominees.

"These are liberal activists with no controversies. They are people who could do an enormous amount of damage but who have thin backgrounds and that makes it harder to challenge them," said another conservative source.

The three picks are Patricia Ann Millett, a partner at Washington law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Georgetown University law professor Cornelia T.L. Pillard, and Robert Leon Wilkins, a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C., appointed to that court two-and-a-half years ago.