Obama Nominates Merrick Garland to Supreme Court
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
On March 16, President Obama announced that Merrick Garland, Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, is his nominee to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court.
Judge Garland’s record, devoid of any immigration matters, is decidedly centrist. At 63, Garland would be older than Justices Kagan and Sotomayor, as well as Chief Justice Roberts, but if confirmed, his judicial viewpoint would shift the balance of the Supreme Court for several years to come.
In the face of promised Republican opposition to any nominee, President Obama selected a candidate with an unimpeachable background and a record of being praised by Republican leadership. Garland graduated from Harvard University and Harvard Law School. After a stint with Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C., Garland worked in President Clinton’s Office of the Attorney General.
Before taking the bench, he supervised the prosecutions of Ted Kaczynski, the “Unabomber” and Timothy McVeigh, who bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Clinton then appointed Garland to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
In announcing Garland as his nominee, President Obama said, “I’ve selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, evenhandedness and excellence.”
When Garland was confirmed to the federal bench in 1997, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah), said that “absolutely no one disputes the following: Merrick Garland is highly qualified to sit on the D.C. Circuit. His intelligence and his scholarship cannot be questioned.” Indeed, a week before the President announced his nominee, Sen. Hatch said he thought Garland was qualified but did not think that President Obama would nominate a jurist with views as centrist as those of Judge Garland.
Regardless of Republican opinion, the confirmation process will be an uphill battle for Garland and President Obama. Several Republicans have threatened to block hearings of any nominee offered in the last year of Obama’s presidency. Senate Democrats, assuming they all concur in the nomination, would need at least 13 Republican votes to stop a filibuster.
In the meantime, the remaining eight justices will be left to decide on the pending appeal of President Obama’s controversial executive actions on immigration. The arguments will be heard in April and a decision will likely be handed down by June. The decision will be the court’s first immigration test without the conservative voice of Scalia in more than three decades.