DC Circuit Nominee Caitlin Halligan Deserves Up or Down Vote: Vote “Yes” on Cloture

Media 03.4,13

Recipient: U.S. Senate

Dear Senator:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, we write to express our strong support for the confirmation of Caitlin Halligan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Throughout her career, Ms. Halligan has distinguished herself through her exceptional abilities and her respect for the rule of law, and she will be an impartial, thoughtful, and highly-respected addition to the court. We urge the Senate to vote “yes” on cloture, and “yes” on her nomination.

The Leadership Conference believes there is no question Ms. Halligan’s credentials are truly outstanding, as evidenced by the “Unanimously Well Qualified” rating from the American Bar Association. She graduated with honors from Princeton University and Georgetown University Law Center, where she served as managing editor of the Georgetown Law Journal. After law school, she clerked for the D.C. Circuit’s first women judge, Patricia M. Wald, and Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court. In 1999, she left private practice to join the Office of the New York State Attorney General, where she served as Chief of the Internet Bureau. In 2001, she became First Deputy Solicitor General of New York, and later that year was appointed Solicitor General. During that time, she managed a staff of 45 appellate attorneys representing New York in federal and state appellate courts. In 2007, she returned to the private sector, heading the appellate practice at Weil, Gotshal and Manges, LLP, in New York. In 2010, she returned to public service in her current role, as General Counsel for the New York County District Attorney’s Office. In addition, Ms. Halligan has served as adjunct faculty at Columbia Law School, and as pro bono counsel to the Board of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

It is no wonder that her nomination has garnered strong support from across the political and philosophical spectrum, from those who know her best. In each stage of her career, Ms. Halligan has excelled, and she has accumulated a broad range of legal experience and expertise in the process. She has been counsel of record in more than 50 cases before the Supreme Court, and presented oral arguments in five of them. For five consecutive years, she received the “best brief” award from the National Association of Attorneys General. She has the enthusiastic support of a bipartisan group of appellate lawyers, former judges, law enforcement officials, and  more than twenty former Supreme Court clerks, whose letter of support cited her “brilliant legal mind, her collegiality and fair-mindedness, and her abiding respect for the rule of law.” She also has been endorsed by numerous organizations, including the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations, the National District Attorneys Association, the New York Association of Chiefs of Police, and the New York State Sheriffs Association. 

Last year, Ms. Halligan’s nomination was blocked, preventing her from receiving a yes or no vote on the Senate floor. In 2010, when she was first nominated, the main argument in opposition to Ms. Halligan’s confirmation was that the court’s current caseload did not warrant filling the ninth seat. At that time, however, there were only two vacancies on the D.C. Circuit; since then, two additional seats have become available, meaning more than one-third of the eleven seats on the court are now open. According to the nonpartisan Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts “the caseload per active judge on the D.C. Circuit has risen more than 50 percent since 2005.” Not only is it contrary to the interests of justice for the court to operate understaffed, it is clear that with fewer active judges on the D.C. Circuit than there were in 2005, the increased workload  warrants filling what is now the  eighth seat on the court. 

Yet, even with her sterling record and numerous accolades, critics in the Senate are spuriously accusing Ms. Halligan of being out of the mainstream. These allegations are based on outlandish inferences drawn from her work while serving as Solicitor General. Attacking a lawyer for zealously representing the position of her client is beyond the pale, as it is what every lawyer is required to do under ethical guidelines. Chief Justice John Roberts affirmed this notion when testifying at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 2005, stating, “I’m just saying that it is a basic principle in our system that lawyers represent clients and you do not ascribe the position of the client to the lawyer. It’s a position that goes back to John Adams and the Revolution.”[1] In this context, such an attack also sets a very unfortunate precedent that, if allowed to prevail, will have lasting repercussions for the judicial confirmation process. We urge you to reject the effort by a small number of ideological extremists to tarnish Ms. Halligan’s reputation. Ms. Halligan exhibits a profound respect for the Constitution and the rule of law and her qualifications, experience, and intellect make her an excellent candidate to serve as only the sixth female judge on the D.C. Circuit. 

We hope you will support cloture on the nomination of Caitlin Halligan, and vote “yes” to confirm her. Thank you for your cooperation. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Nancy Zirkin, Executive Vice President at [email protected] or (202) 466-2880 or Sakira Cook, Senior Policy Associate at [email protected] or (202) 263-2894.


Wade Henderson
President & CEO

Nancy Zirkin
Executive Vice President

[1] Confirmation Hearing on the Nomination of John G. Roberts, Jr. to be Chief Justice of the United States, Hearing Before the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate,109 Cong., 1 Sess. (Sept.12 -15, 2005), at 308.