Federal Courts and Nominations

Let’s Try This Again – Judiciary Committee Hearing for Srinivasan the Next Step to Fixing the D.C. Circuit

The Senate Judiciary Committee has announced that on April 10, 2013, it will hold a hearing on President Obama’s nomination of Sri Srinivasan to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  The hearing comes less than three weeks after the President withdrew his nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the same court, following a second filibuster of Halligan’s nomination that once again prevented Halligan from receiving a yes-or-no vote on the Senate floor, where a majority of Senators would have confirmed her to the Court of Appeals.  The filibuster of the supremely well-qualified  Halligan was another breathtaking example of rank partisanship by Senate Republicans, who have engaged in the unprecedented obstruction of President Obama’s judicial nominees ever since he took office, creating a vacancy crisis on our federal courts.    

The D.C. Circuit — the second most important court in our country — can hardly afford this obstruction, nor can the American people, who depend on this court for critical rulings in cases involving national security, environmental protection, workers’ rights, and more.  Of the 11 authorized judgeships on the D.C. Circuit, four of them — nearly 40% — are vacant.  In fact, as White House Press Secretary Jay Carney noted earlier this week, the D.C. Circuit has twice as many vacancies as any other federal appellate court. 

With Halligan’s withdrawal, there are now three vacancies on the D.C. Circuit without nominees.  The President needs to name a slate of well-qualified nominees for these vacancies, the Judiciary Committee needs to process the nominees expeditiously, and the Senate needs to give each of them a yes-or-no vote.

As Carney observed, the confirmation hearing for Sri Srinivasan next week is an important step on the road to a fully staffed D.C. Circuit.  Srinivasan, currently the Principal Deputy Solicitor General, is by all accounts a brilliant attorney and appellate litigator.  His confirmation is supported by, among others, a bipartisan group of 12 former Solicitors General and other high-ranking officials in the Solicitor General’s office, including conservative luminaries Ken Starr and Paul Clement.  In a recent letter to the Judiciary Committee, these officials described Srinivasan as having “a first-rate intellect, an open-minded approach to the law, a strong work ethic, and an unimpeachable character.”

Will Senate Republicans nonetheless try to keep another of President Obama’s D.C. Circuit nominees from receiving a yes-or-no vote?  Stay tuned.