President Obama Nominates Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court of the United States

Today, President Obama made his nomination to fill the seat that came open when Justice Scalia died.  The nominee is Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland of the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals.

Born in Illinois, Judge Garland,who is 63, has impeccable credentials.  He is a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard College and a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, where he was on the Harvard Law Review.  He clerked for Judge Henry Friendly on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and then for Justice Brennan on the Supreme Court of the United States.  He then became a Special Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department, where he served for two years.  After an eight-year stint in private practice at Arnold & Porter, he became an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Columbia, a post that he held for three years.  In that role, he participated extensively in the investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing.  One more year in private practice was followed by an appointment as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division of the Justice Department.

Judge Garland then became a Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General, the post he had when he was nominated to the D.C. Circuit in September 1995 by President Clinton.  He was not confirmed until 1997.  Thirty two Republican Senators joined Democrats in voting to confirm him at that time, including Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dan Coats (R-IN), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Susan Collins (R-ME), James Inhofe (R-OK), John McCain (R-AZ), and Pat Roberts (R-KS).  All of them are still in the Senate today.  Two of the Republicans who voted no then are Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the current Senate Majority Leader, and Charles Grassley (R-IA), the current Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Without getting into the details of his many opinions for the D.C. Circuit, Judge Garland’s record appears to be one that is more moderate than some Democrats might have preferred, though certainly not conservative in the way that most Republicans would wish.  He certainly would be more centrist than Justice Scalia has been.

If confirmed to the Court, Judge Garland would be the oldest judge to join the Court since Justice Powell became a Justice in 1972 at age 64.  Judge Garland would also become the fourth Jewish Justice on the Court.

President Obama has done his constitutional duty.  The Senate should now do its job and take up this nomination.