Well, I guess the Gang of 14 is dead. Senate Republicans successfully filibustered a nominee to the District of Columbia Circuit who shouldn’t have been controversial in the least. Just check out Caitlin Halligan’s credentials.

Halligan earned an A.B. cum laude in 1988 from Princeton University and a J.D. magna cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center in 1995. She was the managing editor of the Georgetown Law Journal (1994–1995).

After law school, Halligan served as a law clerk first for United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Judge Patricia Wald and then for United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

That sounds like a good start, right?

After her clerkships, Halligan served as First Deputy Solicitor General in the New York Attorney General’s Office. From 1999 to 2000, she was the first Chief of the New York Attorney General’s Internet Bureau, where she developed and coordinated statewide law enforcement and policy initiatives regarding online consumer fraud, privacy, online securities trading, and other Internet-related issues. Before joining that office, she had worked in private practice in New York City and Washington, D.C.
Halligan served as New York’s Solicitor General from 2001 until 2007.

After leaving the Solicitor General’s office in 2007, Halligan joined the law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges to head up its appellate practice.

In early 2010, Halligan left Weil Gotshal to join the Manhattan district attorney’s office as its general counsel.

Halligan has argued four cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

She sounds eminently qualified to serve on the country’s second-highest court, so what’s the problem?

There is no problem. The Republicans have no argument.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in remarks on the Senate floor that Halligan’s representation of New York in a case against gun manufacturers and her membership on a New York City Bar Association panel that issued a report criticizing Bush administration detainee policy had given him concerns about Halligan’s “judicial philosophy and her approach to interpreting the Constitution.”

You can’t blame a solicitor general for defending the laws of the state or country they work for. That is the solicitor general’s job. And the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled against the Bush administration’s detainee policies, so it should hardly be surprising that the New York Bar Association was critical of those policies. Antonin Scalia was critical of the those policies. So, Chuck Grassley was just talking out of his ass. The Republicans opposed Halligan’s nomination as payback for Democratic filibusters in 2003.

Ms. Halligan is the second of Mr. Obama’s appeals court nominees to be blocked, but the first one for the powerful D.C. circuit, which hears many key cases involving the federal government and is considered the breeding ground for future Supreme Court justices. It’s also the same court that began the nomination fights in 2003, when Democrats broke with tradition and filibustered Miguel Estrada, whom then-President George W. Bush had nominated to the D.C. circuit.

While acknowledging their past filibusters, Democrats said Tuesday’s blockade returns to the period before the Gang of 14 reached their deal in 2005 to head off a major rules change that would have ended judicial nomination filibusters.

That deal, reached by seven Democrats and seven Republicans, said filibusters should be used only in cases where there were “extraordinary circumstances.”

In Ms. Halligan’s case, Democrats said there are no questions about her ethics or judicial temperament, and her blockade is based entirely on politics.

The Gang of 14 agreement was supposed to stop filibusters of qualified judicial nominees except in extraordinary circumstances, but there is nothing extraordinary about Halligan that would raise serious questions about her fitness for the court.

So, remember, never make a deal with the Republicans that requires them to keep their word.

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