Obama withdraws Halligan's nomination to D.C. Circuit

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- Pointing to the GOP's continued efforts to block her nomination, President Barack Obama has withdrawn Caitlin Halligan's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Obama said Friday he withdrew Halligan's name at her request.

"I am deeply disappointed that even after nearly two and a half years, a minority of Senators continued to block a simple up-or-down vote on her nomination," he said in a statement. "This unjustified filibuster obstructed the majority of Senators from expressing their support.

"I am confident that with Caitlin's impressive qualifications and reputation, she would have served with distinction."

In her letter to Obama, Halligan said it was a "tremendous honor" to be nominated.

"I am deeply grateful to you for your confidence in me, and your steadfast support of my nomination," she wrote.

"After much reflection, I believe that the time has come for me to respectfully ask that you withdraw my pending nomination from further consideration by the United States Senate."

Earlier this month, Senators failed to invoke cloture on Halligan's nomination.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had been forced to file cloture to end a GOP filibuster.

Cloture is the only procedure by which the Senate can vote to place a time limit on consideration of a bill or other matter -- in this case, a judicial nomination -- and thereby overcome a filibuster.

Under the cloture rule, the Senate may limit consideration of a pending matter to 30 additional hours, but only by a vote of three-fifths of the full Senate, normally 60 votes.

The Senate was short nine votes in Halligan's case.

Halligan was filibustered for the first time two years ago. But the D.C. Circuit, at the time, had only two vacancies.

In December 2011, the Senate failed to invoke cloture on her nomination in a 54-45 vote -- falling just six votes short of the 60 needed to cut off debate and proceed to a floor vote.

Her nomination was returned to Obama days later.

In June 2012, the President renominated Halligan to the D.C. Circuit and her nomination was returned, again, in August.

In September, he again renominated Halligan.

On Jan. 2, her nomination was again returned, due to the sine die adjournment of the Senate. A day later, she was renominated.

The Senate Judiciary Committee -- the first hurdle in the confirmation process -- voted to approve her nomination earlier this month.

Halligan currently serves as general counsel for the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and is a former New York solicitor general.

She was nominated to fill the seat left behind in 2005 by John Roberts, now chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The D.C. Circuit is considered by some to be the second most important court in the country, after the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court often is responsible for resolving critically important cases involving the separation of powers, the role of government, the rights of federal officials, and the decisions of a vast array of administrative agencies.

In fact, it was the D.C. Circuit that ruled in January that Obama's "intrasession appointment" of three new members to the National Labor Relations Board was an unconstitutional abuse of power because he could not make those appointments without U.S. Senate confirmation because the Senate was not in recess.

Despite its importance, the D.C. Circuit currently has more vacancies than any other federal appeals court: four on the 11-member court.

In addition to Roberts' seat and that of A. Raymond Randolph, who took senior status in 2008, Douglas H. Ginsburg took senior status in October 2011 and David Sentelle took senior status last month.

"The D.C. Circuit is considered the nation's second-highest court, but it now has more vacancies than any other circuit court," Obama said Friday.

"This is unacceptable."

The President said he remained "committed" to filling the vacancies.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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