Leahy: Halligan A Superbly Qualified Nominee Worthy Of Bipartisan Senate Support

[The Senate will vote Tuesday at 12:00 p.m. on the motion to invoke cloture on the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.  Read Senator Leahy’s full statement on the nomination online.]


Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),

Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,

On Cloture On The Nomination Of Caitlin Halligan to the D.C. Circuit

December 5, 2011

Tomorrow the Senate should be holding an up-or-down vote on the long-delayed nomination of Caitlin Halligan to fill one of three vacancies on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  Instead, for the seventh time since President Obama took office 34 months ago, we are required to overcome a Republican filibuster for the Senate to consider one of President Obama’s superbly qualified judicial nominees.

Ms. Halligan, President Obama’s first nominee to the important D.C. Circuit, is the former Solicitor General for the State of New York.  With an impressive record in private practice and public service, she is widely respected for the quality of her work as an advocate.  Indeed, Ms. Halligan’s nomination was greeted with bipartisan support and has since garnered endorsements from law enforcement officials and organizations, women’s organizations, and judges and preeminent lawyers from across the political spectrum.  The Judiciary Committee favorably reported Ms. Halligan’s nomination nearly nine months ago. 

Many Republican Senators declared that they would never support the filibuster of a judicial nomination—never.  With its latest filibuster, the Senate Republican leadership seeks to set yet another new standard, one that threatens to make confirmation of any nominee to the D.C. Circuit virtually impossible for the future.   It is time to edge away from this dangerous precipice. 

When Democratic Senators cooperated to confirm John Roberts to the D.C. Circuit in 2003, we broke the stalemate created by the Republicans refusal for years to even consider President Clinton’s nominees to that court.   Like John Roberts, Caitlin Halligan is a highly-regarded appellate advocate with the kind of impeccable credentials in both public service and private practice that make her unquestionably qualified to serve on the D.C. Circuit.  She should be confirmed, not unjustifiably filibustered.

Yet again, we see Senate Republicans shifting the standards they use and the arguments they make based on the party of the President making the nominations.  They say one thing when President Clinton is in office, flip when the President is a Republican, and flop when the American people elect President Obama. The same Republican Senators who blocked President Clinton’s nominations from even being considered by the Judiciary Committee supported every nomination of President Bush’s to the D.C. Circuit, as they filled the ninth seat, twice filled the 10th seat on the court and went on to fill the 11th seat, a judgeship that they argued was unnecessary when a Democratic President was doing the nominating. 

With the election of President Barack Obama, Republican Senators have now dusted off an old obstructionist argument about the D.C. Circuit’s caseload, something they ignored for eight years as President Bush’s nominees were confirmed to fill the 10th seat twice and also the 11th judgeship.  But they have ratcheted up their partisan opposition and now oppose even filling the 9th judgeship.  With three vacancies on the D.C. Circuit, that is the judgeship that Caitlin Halligan would be filling—not the 11th that Senate Republicans filled just recently, or the 10th that they voted twice to fill, but the 9th. 

The fact is that the D.C. Circuit’s cases have increased in importance and the court’s caseload has increased since Republican Senators supported every one of President Bush’s nominations to that court. According to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, the caseload per active judge has increased by one third since 2005, when the Senate confirmed President Bush’s nomination of Thomas Griffith to fill the 11th seat on the D.C. Circuit.  That is right -- the D.C. Circuit’s caseload has actually increased. 

This bogus caseload argument is not a basis on which to oppose as qualified a nominee as Caitlin Halligan, who has widespread support from law enforcement and the legal community. Caitlin Halligan is a superbly qualified nominee whose personal integrity, temperament and abilities have been attested to by lawyers and judges from both sides of the aisle.   The many leading lawyers who have worked with Ms. Halligan, and law enforcement officials and organizations supporting her nomination have all attested to Ms. Halligan’s “temperament,” “fairness” and “balance” in addition to her legal judgment and qualifications for the D.C. Circuit.   Hollow contentions about the caseload of the quarter-vacant D.C. Circuit fall well short of any standard of “extraordinary circumstances.”  The only extraordinary circumstance is that the court is one-quarter vacant.  The D.C. Circuit caseload has increased and yet the Senate Republican leadership is reversing its position from its support for filling D.C. Circuit vacancies during the Bush years.

I urge Republican and Democratic Senators to come together and end this misguided  filibuster. There is no basis for blocking her nomination from having an up-or-down vote.  To the contrary, Caitlin Halligan’s impeccable credentials and record as an accomplished advocate make her nomination worthy of bipartisan support.  I look forward to the Senate ending this filibuster by a bipartisan vote and then proceeding to consider Caitlin Halligan’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit.

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