President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to be his nominee for a Supreme Court justice. The Federal appeals court judge takes the influential ninth seat in the nation’s highest court that was left vacant by the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed on February 13, 2016.
“People respect Merrick’s deep and abiding passion for protecting our most basic Constitutional rights.” The president said at the Rose Garden at the White House. “To find someone…who just about everyone not only respects, but genuinely likes—that is rare.”
“He’s someone who has a keen understanding that justice is about more than abstract legal theory,” Obama said of Garland. “He grasps the way the law affects the daily reality of people’s lives in a big, complicated democracy.”
Obama believes Garland is “eminently qualified to sit on the Supreme Court.”
Garland beat out Judge Sri Srinivasan, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, who was also high on Obama’s list of nominees, and Judge Paul Watford, of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
The 63-year-old Garland is currently the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington D.C. Circuit. Garland has been a finalist for two other Supreme Court openings during Obama’s presidency.
Garland is undeniably qualified for the prestigious position. He is a veteran of the D.C. Circuit, serving 19 years at the court that is widely viewed as the second-most powerful in the nation. Garland is viewed as a moderate, but as a former prosecutor, he had a relatively conservative record on criminal justice.
From Think Progress:
Garland graduated with high honors from Harvard Law School. He clerked for Justice William Brennan, and spent a few years as a partner in the multinational law firm Arnold and Porter. He also held senior positions in the Justice Department, including a leadership role in the department’s criminal division and a stint as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General.
Before becoming a judge, Garland occupied top posts in the Justice Department, where he oversaw some of the biggest investigations of the Clinton era, including the Oklahoma City bombing, the Unabomber case, and the Atlanta Olympics bombing.
At 63-years-old, Garland is the oldest person nominated to the Supreme Court since President Nixon named Justice Lewis Powell in 1971.
However, despite getting the President’s approval, will still have to get the approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee as mandated by the Constitution.
There will be a series of hearings in which both the nominee and other witnesses make statements and answer questions before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which can vote to send the nomination to the full United States Senate. Confirmation by the Senate allows the President to formally appoint the candidate to the court.
Garland has garnered praise from senior Republican figures, including Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and Chief Justice John Roberts. The Garland nomination seems to a compromise and to counter Senate Republicans who’ve refused to confirm any candidate that Obama nominates.
Even before Obama made his announcement today, conservative Republicans have pledged to block any attempt to fill the all too important spot before January when a new president will be sworn in. Sen. Ted Cruz Sen. Mitch McConnell, have come out against the current POTUS filling the SCOTUS vacancy.
“The one name that has come up repeatedly—from Republicans and Democrats alike—is Merrick Garland,” Obama said on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, Obama commented on his monumental responsibility with an email:
As President, it is both my constitutional duty to nominate a Justice and one of the most important decisions that I — or any president — will make.
I’ve devoted a considerable amount of time and deliberation to this decision. I’ve consulted with legal experts and people across the political spectrum, both inside and outside government. And we’ve reached out to every member of the Senate, who each have a responsibility to do their job and take this nomination just as seriously.
Obama also revealed the thought process that helped him make his decision:
This is a responsibility I do not take lightly. In considering several candidates, I held each to three principles that reflect the role the Supreme Court plays in our democracy.
First, a Justice should possess an independent mind, unimpeachable credentials, and an unquestionable mastery of law. There is no doubt this person will face complex legal questions, so it is imperative that he or she possess a rigorous intellect that will help provide clear answers.
Second, a Justice should recognize the limits of the judiciary’s role. With a commitment to impartial justice rather than any particular ideology, the next Supreme Court Justice will understand that the job is to interpret the law, not make law.
However, I know there will be cases before the Supreme Court in which the law is not clear. In those cases, a Justice’s analysis will necessarily be shaped by his or her own perspective, ethics, and judgment.
Therefore, the third quality I looked for in a judge is a keen understanding that justice is not about abstract legal theory, nor some footnote in a dusty casebook. It’s the kind of life experience earned outside the classroom and the courtroom; experience that suggests he or she views the law not only as an intellectual exercise, but also grasps the way it affects the daily reality of people’s lives in a big, complicated democracy, and in rapidly-changing times. In my view, that’s an essential element for arriving at just decisions and fair outcomes.