Senate Obstructionists Block D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Nominee

March 6, 2013

by Jeremy Leaming

Another highly qualified nominee was the victim of the Senate’s obstructionists’ ongoing assault on the judiciary, which includes burdening the federal bench with high vacancies and larger caseloads.

Today the Senate filibustered the nomination of Caitlin Halligan for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, largely along a party-line vote, 54-45, with one Republican joining all the Democrats. Halligan was hailed in the legal community, liberal and conservatives, alike as greatly suited to serve in the judiciary.

But as noted here yesterday, obstructionists continued to claim Halligan to “extreme” on constitutional issues. And they seem bent on keeping vacancies open and giving higher hurdles to confirmation for women and minority nominees in particular.

ACS President Caroline Fredrickson blasted the action today saying, in part, that the obstructionists are undermining a pillar of democracy.

“Our courts and citizens are seeing justice delayed because our courts cannot function effectively or efficiently without judges. It’s far past time to end this vacancy crisis and get our justice system back up and running," Fredrickson said. (See her full statement .)

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also took on the needless obstruction of judicial nominations, and some of his Republican colleagues, concluding, “They have not been fair to this fine woman.”

President Obama called the senators' action a "pattern of obstruction," adding that his  "judicial nominees wait more than three times as long on the Senate floor to receive a vote than my predecessor's nominees." Like retired U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Judge Patricia M. Wald noted in a column for The Washington Post, the president also highlighted the harm done to the D.C. circuit court, which was gone years with vacancies.

"The effects of this obstruction take the heaviest toll on the D.C. Circuit, considered the Nation's second-highest court, which has only seven active judges and four vacancies," the president's March 6 statement reads. "Until last month, for more than forty years, the court has always had at least eight active judges and as many as twelve."