President Obama has re-nominated, for the fifth time, one of his most extreme judicial candidates, Caitlin Halligan, whose record on abortion and the Second Amendment should be especially troubling to South Carolinians. While Senator Lindsay Graham has been a strong opponent of this nomination in the past, he inexplicably seems prepared to flip-flop on this extremely significant appointment to the second most important court in the country.
Caitlin Halligan is a pro-abortion extremist, using her time and resources to advance a cause that Senator Graham claims to oppose. Halligan filed a Supreme Court amicus brief claiming that pro-life protestors were engaging in extortion, under a legal theory that the U.S. Supreme Court rejected 8-1. She is also a donor to pro-abortion groups, including to the New York Women’s Foundation, which “provides grants to groups actively engaged in ‘ … advocacy, and/or policy work …’ supporting access to abortions.”
Halligan also has a very troubling record of dismissing the Second Amendment while embracing discredited legal theories favored by trial lawyers.
In 2003, while serving as the solicitor general for the State of New York, Halligan signed the brief in the New York Court of Appeals case The People vs. Sturm, Ruger & Co. – a lawsuit brought against handgun manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers. The lawsuit argued that gun manufacturers should be liable for threats to public safety caused by illegally possessed handguns. That is, simply because these companies made or sold handguns – even if they obeyed all the laws in doing so – they could be sued because other people used these guns illegally.
Luckily, like most courts that have addressed such claims, New York’s highest court saw through the “public safety” facade and concluded that the connection between the alleged conduct (manufacturing guns) and the harm (murders and robberies) was “too tenuous and remote” to hold the industry liable. The opinion argued that the lawsuit’s theory could have a devastating impact upon a wide variety of industries; it would “likely open the courthouse doors to a flood of limitless, similar theories of public nuisance, not only against these defendants, but also against a wide and varied array of other commercial and manufacturing enterprises and activities.”
This flood of lawsuits could occur irrespective of actual harm from the problems at issue, unrelated to if the defendants caused or could have foreseen them, “and regardless of the existence, remoteness, nature and extent of any intervening causes between defendants’ lawful commercial conduct and the alleged harm.” Just imagine lawyers lining up to sue a car dealer because someone bought a car from them and then got in a drunk driving accident, or even a knife manufacturer if their products were used in domestic violence incidents.
Even several years after this resounding defeat, Halligan filed an amicus brief in support of New York City recycling her discredited legal theories in the hopes that they would fare better in federal court. (They didn’t).
Those lawsuits were part of a coordinated, national litigation strategy aimed at destroying the handgun industry. Walter Olson, in “The Rule of Lawyers,” explains that the sums of money the plaintiffs were demanding in those lawsuits were “more than enough to drive every major gun maker into bankruptcy many times over.” And they were just the latest in a long series of steps taken by trial lawyers to use public nuisance lawsuits to transfer wealth from targeted industries — asbestos, tobacco, lead paint, lead pigment, guns — to themselves.
Halligan is not the first nominee President Obama has put forward who is hostile to the Second Amendment. Justice Sotomayor, his first appointment to the Supreme Court, made it clear in the case of McDonald vs. Chicago that she does not believe in an individual right to own a gun, joining an opinion asserting that “the Framers did not write the Second Amendment in order to protect a private right of armed self-defense.” Senator Graham should resist invitations to support President Obama’s radical anti-Second Amendment agenda, which includes the appointment of judges who would quietly but effectively erode our rights. And he should start by vigorously opposing Halligan’s nomination.