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While Congress is in recess this week, the White House has formally withdrawn one of its long-standing nominations for an appointee to the federal appeals court in D.C. President Obama first nominated Caitlin Halligan almost three years ago and, since then, the Senate has twice blocked her nomination. Lawmakers see the D.C. Circuit as the one of the most important courts in the country, just behind the U.S. Supreme Court. David Hawkings, author of Hawkings Here for C.Q. Roll Call, talks about the details.
On why the nomination for Caitlin Halligan was withdrawn: "It was with withdrawn because Obama pushed her nomination two different times for the Senate, and both times Republicans staged a very unusual filibuster of her nomination, and both times they sustained that filibuster... It's definitely a signal that the Republicans are going to be intently reevaluating these judicial wars in the new Congress.
On the rationale behind why it was withdrawn: "It wasn't really about her qualifications, per se — she has kind of sterling qualifications. She was the chief appellate lawyer for New York State, she's now the general council to the New York district attorney, and she's been a lawyer for one of the top white shoe law firms in the country. Really, it came down to a few cases, that they said she would be a judicial activist. They pointed to one in particular, which was a position she took as a lawyer on behalf of New York State that gun makers should be held liable when their products are used in an illegal way. Republicans said this showed she was a gun rights opponent, and didn't believe in the second amendment, and the other side said, this is what lawyers do — they represent their clients."
On why appointees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals are so important: "For people in our area, if you live in the District and you have a federal appeal, and if you're a criminal defendant and you have a constitutional claim that you're innocent, this is where your case would hope to go. But the reason that it's the most important nationwide is that since all of the federal agencies are located here in the District, all of those appeals about the constitutionality of agencies and programs, end up bubbling up in the system and go through the Circuit before they go through the Supreme Court."
On the four vacancies on the D.C. Circuit, and whether Obama is close to filling them: "He's going to keep trying. There hasn't been a seat filled since 2006. He hasn't put anybody on the court. He's got one nominee up... but it's going to be a long slog."