Early in March, Rand Paul took the country by storm with his 13-hour talking filibuster, shedding light on a major civil liberties violation. That same day, Senate Republicans received much less media attention when they filibustered to block the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, a position she has been nominated to since 2010.
Although Halligan received majority support, the Senate was nine votes shy of the 60 votes required to break the filibuster. After two years of debate, President Obama formally withdrew Halligan’s nomination on Friday, March 22.
Filibusters such as this have become the status quo on the Hill. The dysfunction within the Capitol is evident to many Americans who view Congress unfavorably. However, this filibuster seemed particularly divisive in that it focused on the Second Amendment.
When Halligan was initially nominated, the National Rifle Association (NRA) immediately took issue, sending a letter to the Senate opposing the former New York solicitor general’s nomination because of her attempts to "undermine the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), enacted in 2005 with strong bipartisan support."
The PLCAA was enacted to protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits stemming from the improper or illegal use of a firearm from a third party. The PLCAA clearly states that, "the possibility of imposing liability on an entire industry for harm that is solely caused by others is an abuse of the legal system."
This type of targeted liability protection is not uncommon and is currently in place for aircraft developers, medical implant companies, and an array of specialized industries. Corporations such as these should not be held accountable for the misuse of their products and by arguing otherwise, Halligan is guilty of judicial activism.
Halligan’s record of advocacy against the Second Amendment is clear in cases such as The People vs. Sturm, Ruger & Co. where the court determined that her argument accusing gun manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers of being a "public nuisance" was "too tenuous and remote" to be upheld. Halligan held the same position a few years later in City of New York v. Beretta U.S.A. Corp. to no avail.
The president has a history of nominating activist judges, yet he continues to act surprised and disappointed when they are rejected, often times deeming the majority decision "unacceptable." If the system in Washington is going to be fixed, President Obama will need to begin nominating candidates who have a record of protecting the Constitution instead of pushing their personal political agenda.