Debunking The Media Smear Campaign Against Judicial Nominee Caitlin Halligan

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed a motion to cut off a filibuster against the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Halligan has been smeared by the right-wing media based on a number of myths about her record. Media Matters has posted an extended debunking of those media myths and presents a summary of them here.

MEDIA MYTH: Halligan Is A “Radical Choice” For The Federal Bench

REALITY: Halligan Has Support From Across The Political Spectrum. Halligan's supporters include:

  • Lawyers who clerked for conservative Supreme Court justices. [Letter from Halligan's Supreme Court co-clerks, 2/28/11, via]
  • An attorney nominated by President George W. Bush to the D.C. Circuit. [Letter from 21 attorneys, 3/4/11, via]
  • Numerous law enforcement personnel. [, accessed 12/2/11]

MEDIA MYTH: Halligan's Record Shows Hostility To Gun Rights

REALITY: Halligan Has Testified That She Will Uphold Second Amendment Rights

  • Halligan testified that she “would follow” Supreme Court precedent finding that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to keep and bear arms. [Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, 2/2/11]
  • In both cases cited by her media opponents, Halligan was representing a client, not presenting her own views. [Media Matters, 3/14/11]

MEDIA MYTH: Halligan Has Shown A “Decided Slant” On The Issue Of Same Sex-Marriage

REALITY: In The 2004 Document Her Media Opponents Have Cited, Halligan Concluded That New York State Law “Did Not ... Authorize Same-Sex Marriage”

  • In 2004, Halligan stated: "[T]he legislature did not intend to authorize same-sex marriage." [New York attorney general's office, 3/3/04]
  • Halligan explained that it was unclear whether the courts would uphold New York's ban on same-sex marriage, an opinion that is correct since courts have split on whether bans on same-sex marriage are constitutional. [Media Matters, 2/1/11]

MEDIA MYTH: Halligan Took An Out-Of-The-Mainstream Position In Report On Military Detentions Since 9-11

REALITY: Halligan Testified That She Did Not Approve Of The Military Detention Report In Question

  • Halligan testified under oath that she had not previously reviewed the detainee report, and that she now found it “clearly incorrect” in some parts and was “taken aback” by its tone. [Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Caitlin Halligan, 2/2/11]

MEDIA MYTH: Halligan's Views On Diversity In Education Are Outside The Mainstream

REALITY: Halligan Was Representing A Client In Diversity Cases, Not Presenting Her Own Views

  • Halligan filed the briefs on diversity as solicitor general of New York, not on her own behalf. [Brief in Grutter v. Bollinger, accessed 11/21/11; Brief in Parents Involved v. Seattle, 10/10/06]
  • In one of the cases, the Supreme Court ruled that schools could take race into account in order to achieve more diverse classrooms. [Grutter v. Bollinger, 6/23/03]
  • In one of the cases, Halligan's brief was joined by the Republican attorney general of Utah. [Brief in Parents Involved v. Seattle, 10/10/06]
  • In another case, retired military leaders and leading businesses took the same side as Halligan. [Brief of Lt. Gen. Julius W. Becton Jr., et al., 2/19/03; Brief of 65 leading American businesses, 2/18/03]

MEDIA MYTH: Halligan's Testimony That She Will Look At Text And Original Intent To Interpret The Constitution Is “Not Believable”

REALITY: Halligan's Testimony Is In Line With What Other Progressives Believe

  • Some progressives strongly believe that the text and history of the constitution should form the basis of constitutional interpretation. [Media Matters, 2/24/11]

MEDIA MYTH: The D.C. Circuit's Case Load Is So Low It Does Not Need Another Judge

REALITY: Senate Confirmed Bush Judges When Caseload Was At A Lower Level

  • In 2005, the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed Thomas Griffith to a seat on the D.C. Circuit. As a result, there were approximately 121 pending cases per D.C. Circuit judge. [Media Matters, 12/2/11]
  • If Halligan were confirmed, she would fill the ninth seat on the D.C. Circuit and there would be 143 pending cases per D.C. Circuit judge as a result. [Media Matters, 12/2/11]

MEDIA MYTH: GOP Senators Can Filibuster Halligan Based On The Standards They Have Set Up

REALITY: Many GOP Senators Have Said Filibusters Of Judicial Nominees Are Unconstitutional

  • Numerous Republican senators have said or suggested that it is unconstitutional to filibuster judicial nominees, including Sens. Johnny Isakson (GA), John Thune (SD), Orrin Hatch (UT), John Cornyn (TX), Mike Crapo (ID), Saxby Chambliss (GA), James Inhofe (OK), Jeff Sessions (AL), Chuck Grassley (IA), Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX), Richard Burr (NC), Jim DeMint (SC), and Pat Roberts (KS). [, accessed 12/2/11]
  • Republican senators, including Sens. Lamar Alexander (TN), Isakson, DeMint, Tom Coburn (OK), and Lisa Murkowski (AK), have also pledged that they would not filibuster judicial nominees even if a Democrat was in the White House. [, accessed 12/2/11]

For more information about these myths, please see Media Matters' Myths And Falsehoods About Judicial Nominee Caitlin Halligan