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While Sen. Rand Paul was filibustering last week over drones, his Republican colleagues were engaged in stalling tactics of another sort, designed to prevent federal judicial nominees from ever taking their seats on the bench.

In this New Yorker piece today, Jeffrey Toobin explains why judicial appointments are becoming “one of the great missed opportunities of the Obama Presidency.”

Case in point: Caitlin Halligan, Obama’s nominee for the  D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals — considered the second most important court in the nation:

A majority of the Senate voted to bring up the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, but forty-one Republican Senators voted to prevent her from receiving consideration. This is the modern version of the filibuster, far more common than Paul’s thirteen-hour speech. Without sixty votes, it’s now virtually impossible to accomplish anything in the contemporary United States Senate.

This was the second time that Halligan received majority support, but, because she never passed the threshold of sixty, her nomination now appears doomed. And so, in the fifth year of his Presidency, Obama has failed to place even a single judge on the D.C. Circuit. . . [which] now has four vacancies out of eleven seats.

Halligan is widely viewed by attorneys on both sides of the aisle as impeccably qualified to sit on the bench.  So what’s the problem? It turns out that while working in the New York Attorney General’s office Halligan wrote a brief supporting the efforts of her boss, Andrew Cuomo, “to make gun manufacturers legally responsible for some of the violence in New York, a position that the National Rifle Association opposed. The N.R.A. punished Halligan for doing her job for New York, and the Senate Republicans followed.”