Obama attempts to fill vacancy on DC appeals court with NY lawyer, names other nominees

By Erica Werner, AP
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Obama taps NY lawyer for DC circuit

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated the general counsel for the Manhattan district attorney’s office to a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The D.C. Circuit is considered the country’s most influential federal court aside from the Supreme Court and regularly handles high-profile cases such as lawsuits over Guantanamo Bay detainees. Obama’s nominee, Caitlin Halligan, is general counsel at the New York County D.A.’s office, former solicitor general for New York state and a one-time clerk to Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

The D.C. Circuit is also something of a training ground for the high court. Four current Supreme Court justices served there — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Clarence Thomas.

The D.C. Circuit has two vacancies, and a conservative tilt, with six of the nine active judges having been nominated by Republicans.

However, the Senate has been slow to act on Obama’s nominees and already has a backlog of more than 20 judicial nominations. That’s led to complaints from Attorney General Eric Holder and others about a proliferation of vacancies on federal courts, although Republicans dispute accusations of obstructionism.

Obama also announced several other judicial nominees Wednesday, including Jimmie V. Reyna to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Mae A. d’Agostino to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, and Judge R. Brooke Jackson to U.S. District Court in Colorado.

With Congress preparing to leave town this week ahead of midterm elections, it’s not clear how quickly, the nominations could be considered, if at all.

Peter Edelman, a law professor at Georgetown University, where Halligan received her law degree, described her in an interview as “a superb lawyer, absolutely meticulous and thorough.”

Associated Press writer Mark Sherman contributed to this report.

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