Democrats Lose Cloture Vote on Obama Pro-Abortion Judge Halligan

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 6, 2013   |   12:32PM   |   Washington, DC

Senate Democrats failed today to secure enough votes to stop a filibuster and get a cloture on President Barack Obama’s nomination of another pro-abortion judge to a federal court.

Leading pro-life groups called for the U.S. Senate to vote no on cloture on the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

“Halligan shows signs of being the quintessential judicial activist,” noted Dr. Yoest.  ”She is unqualified to sit on such a prestigious court because of her conduct in office, using her position in state government to advance radical, pro-abortion legal theories against the constitutional rights of pro-life citizens.”

Today, Democrats were 9 votes shy of the 60 needed for cloture, with Halligan’s nomination set back by a 51-41 vote. Republicans were able to hold their caucus together enough to prevent concluding debate on her nomination and moving forward to a majority vote that would have put her on the bench. Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski was the only Republican to cross party lines, voting to invoke cloture.

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) delivered a Senate floor speech in opposition of DC Circuit nominee Caitlin Halligan, citing the lack of need for an additional judge in the Court, and concerns with Halligan’s views in previous cases.

“The D.C. Circuit is arguably the most important federal appellate court in our country’s judicial system, with primary responsibility to review administrative decisions made by many federal departments and agencies.  It has also served in several instances as a stepping-stone for judges who are later appointed to the Supreme Court,” he said. “As a result, the Senate has a longstanding practice of scrutinizing nominees to the D.C. Circuit.  And when evaluating particular nominees we have also carefully considered the need for additional judges on that court.”

“Halligan is anything but a consensus nominee.  The Senate has already considered and rejected her nomination.  Nothing material has changed since that time,” he added.

Halligan’s abortion activism came to light when she used her position as Solicitor General for the state of New York to bring the weight of her office against peaceful pro-life protestors. In 2002, in the Supreme Court case of NOW v. Scheidler, Halligan attempted to squash the First Amendment rights of private citizens who opposed abortion, and tried to intimidate and bankrupt them by expanding the reach of the federal Hobbs Act and the federal civil RICO (racketeering) law. Halligan urged the Supreme Court to adopt NOW’s unprecedented legal theory that public protest that diminished the business of abortion clinics constituted federal “extortion.”

For 10 years, from 1985 to 1995, AUL was co-counsel for Joseph Scheidler in NOW v. Scheidler and thereafter filed amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court against the expansion of Hobbs Act extortion and RICO, defending the constitutional rights of Americans to peacefully assemble and peacefully protest.

Halligan’s role in the case was extraordinary because she attempted to persuade the Supreme Court that the history of New York law was essential to a proper interpretation of the Hobbs Act/RICO and that her position at Solicitor General of New York gave her special insight and influence in interpreting New York’s extortion law.

The Supreme Court threw out the case twice and eventually rejected Halligan’s position 8-1.  Even Justice Ginsburg, the most liberal member of the Court, authored a concurring opinion rejecting Halligan’s attempt to stretch the Hobbs Act to apply to abortion protestors.  Ginsburg wrote, “The Court is rightly reluctant, as I see it, to extend RICO’s domain further by endorsing the expansive definition of ‘extortion.’”

“Halligan admittedly ‘provided substantial assistance’ in filing the brief on behalf of New York and inserting herself into this effort to sever pro-life Americans from their Constitutional rights,” said Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life. “Her willingness to twist laws–designed to confront organized crime–against peaceful protestors demonstrates why Americans United for Life Action is calling for a NO vote. The Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade wrongly took the issue of life out of the hands of voters through an activist court. Halligan’s nomination represents the possibility of further judicial activism on abortion, and she must not be allowed to receive a lifetime appointment to the Court of Appeals.”

Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council said Halligan should face strong opposition from pro-life members of the Senate.

“Like so many others, Halligan is an attractive candidate to the Left because she brings to the table an extensive resume of radicalism,” Perkins says.

“As Solicitor General, Halligan sided with the National Organization for Women in a brief that tried to slam pro-life protestors with extortion and racketeering charges under a twisted interpretation of the Hobbs Act,” he explains. “Their claim was so outside the mainstream that the U.S. Supreme Court threw it out in an 8-1 decision.”

“Her brand of judicial activism would be a devastating blow in the D.C. Circuit Court, which plays a major role in interpreting federal statutes and regulations. If she really does view the courts as a “special friend of liberty,” there’s no telling what damage she could do under the guise of social progress,” Perkins continues.

“If she fills the vacancy on the D.C. Circuit, Halligan will be free to act as an unaccountable legislator on one of the most powerful courts in the country–with permanent job security,” Perkins says. “Contact your senators today and ask them to vote against Caitlin Halligan’s nomination. If we don’t give legislators a lifetime term, why would we give it to a judge who acts like one?”



The ACLJ, a pro-life legal group, is also opposed to Halligan’s nomination.

“By way of background, the D.C. Circuit Court is generally considered the second most powerful court (behind only the U.S. Supreme Court) in the nation. The D.C. Circuit Court plays a critical role in national security matters, has considerable regulatory review authority, and is frequently a springboard for judges that are later nominated to the Supreme Court (Justice Roberts was a D.C. Circuit Judge when nominated),” ACLJ added. “For all of these reasons and more, nominations to the D.C. Circuit are customarily considered with great deliberation and care. If fact, one need look no further than the previous nominations of Miguel Estrada and Peter Keisler to find examples of thoroughly qualified nominees who were vigorously opposed and ultimately defeated.”

“With this in mind, it is troubling when nominees of this significance – especially ones as controversial as Ms. Halligan – are considered during a truncated end-of-year time period. However, careful observation suggests that this is happening because Ms. Halligan’s record cannot withstand the rigorous examination that is typically required of nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court,” the ACLJ continued.

“Halligan seems to forget that it is not the role of the Judiciary to determine legislative consensus. That role belongs to the Legislative Branch, and Ms. Halligan’s insertion of the Judiciary into that process is cause for concern,” the organization said.