Update: On March 22, 2013, President Obama accepted Caitlin Halligan’s request to withdraw as a nominee to the D.C. Circuit. Senate Republicans had blocked a yes-or-no vote on Ms. Halligan’s nomination for more than two years. As the President emphasized in his statement, the D.C. Circuit “is considered the Nation’s second-highest court, but it now has more vacancies than any other circuit court. This is unacceptable.”
In cataloguing the casualties of Washington politics, it’s not something you’d be likely to list. There’s the climate, of course. And our nation’s waters. Human health might come to mind. But the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit? Its name alone inspires sleep, not action.
This shouldn’t be the case. As Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen recently wrote, the D.C. Circuit is our second highest court—one with the power to determine whether Americans across the country have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. And the circuit’s importance isn’t limited to environmental cases. “From food safety and workers’ rights to the integrity of our elections, the court wields extraordinary authority and influence.”
While it might seem an odd thing to say, the D.C. Circuit needs us. After years of partisan obstruction and administrative delay, four of the court’s eleven seats now sit empty. Earlier this month, Senate Republicans blocked a vote on President Obama’s first nominee to the D.C. Circuit—for the second time.
Want to learn more? On Monday, March 25, the Center for American Progress, the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, and the Constitutional Accountability Center will be hosting a webcast discussion about the D.C. Circuit, its importance and the crisis it’s in. The event will open with remarks from the Hon. Patricia Wald, a former chief judge of the D.C. Circuit. It will also feature our own David Baron, managing attorney in Earthjustice’s Washington, D.C. office. You can stream it (at 12:00 p.m. EDT).