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editorial | federal judiciary

Outrage machine grinds away

DISCREDITING PERFECTLY qualified nominees to the federal judiciary is a dreary, familiar business - one whose latest target is Caitlin Halligan, a former New York solicitor general who once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Ever since President Obama nominated her for the DC Circuit Court of Appeals last year, critics have been combing her record for evidence of dangerous radicalism.

They haven’t found any. But in the crude world of judicial-nomination fights, a nuanced discussion of New York’s marriage laws becomes a self-evident slant toward same-sex marriage. Others depict her as anti-gun because she signed a brief in a liability suit against gun manufacturers. The group Gun Owners of America has conveniently pre-written an e-mail, which members can robo-send to their senators, denouncing Halligan’s nomination as “inconceivable.’’

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Halligan may not be GOP senators’ first choice for an appellate-court seat. And if a Republican president had chosen a former Texas solicitor general who’d clerked for Antonin Scalia, some of the same groups now defending Halligan would surely be scraping around for reasons why the nominee was utterly unsuitable for the job. But the Senate need not dignify these tactics.

In a way, Halligan is lucky; rather than stringing her along endlessly, the Senate has scheduled a vote today to end debate on her nomination. GOP senators - including Scott Brown - should acknowledge that her views appear to be well within the legal mainstream, and vote to end the filibuster against her. Her nomination deserves, at the least, an up-or-down confirmation vote.

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