We don’t always get a second chance to make things right. But tomorrow, obstructionists in the U.S. Senate do. In December 2011, every Republican Senator, save one (Senator Lisa Murkowski) filibustered the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the important Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Tomorrow, the Senate will get a second chance to allow this outstanding nominee to receive an up-or-down vote.
The delays in her confirmation have only caused more problems for this court, and the public at large, during the thirteen months since the first vote to move to consider Caitlin Halligan’s nomination failed. Instead of three open seats on the D.C. Circuit, as there were in 2011, there are now four – making the D.C. Circuit the appellate court with the highest number of vacancies in the country. Now seven judges must do the work meant for a full eleven-judge court. With each vacancy, each judge’s caseload of complex, nationally important cases has grown. What else has changed? Well, since President Obama won a second term, the virtual total shutdown of the confirmation process has ended. So now is clearly the time to move the Halligan nomination forward, to a consideration of her excellent record – and a confirmation vote.
Even a cursory summary of her qualifications – from her superb academic record to her appellate and Supreme Court clerkships to her stellar career as an appellate litigator – demonstrates what an outstanding choice she is for the D.C. Circuit. She is an exceptionally talented lawyer who has the respect of her peers, including over 20 prominent litigators, nearly two dozen former Supreme Court clerks, numerous law enforcement officials, several former judges, and over 100 female law professors, all of whom enthusiastically support her nomination. Inspired by the example of her parents, who were both educators, she has devoted most of her career to public service, including as a legislative aide to former Congressman Bill Alexander, as the Chief of the Internet Bureau of the New York Attorney General’s office, as New York Solicitor General, and, currently, as General Counsel of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. In her current job, Caitlin Halligan works to protect the public by, among other things, working to reduce violent crimes, guarding the most vulnerable victims of domestic and sexual violence and child and elder abuse, and enforcing the law with both vigor and fairness. Moreover, if confirmed, she would be only the sixth woman judge in the D.C. Circuit’s history, where she herself served as a law clerk to the path-breaking Judge Patricia Wald.
When the Senate votes on whether to end debate on this nomination tomorrow, Senators should make the most of their second chance, and allow a confirmation vote for Caitlin Halligan.