President Barack Obama nominated a prominent, high-achieving Chicago native to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, March 16. The nomination set up a showdown with Republicans who have vowed to prevent the commander in chief from exercising his duty with just eight months left in the White House.
In a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court of the United States. Legal scholars say Garland, the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court, has more federal judicial experience than any other Supreme Court nominee in history. Born in Chicago, Garland graduated as valedictorian at Niles West High School in Skokie.
Obama praised his nominee as a man of high principles and character.
“To find someone with such a long career of public service, marked by complex and sensitive issues; to find someone who just about everyone not only respects, but genuinely like-that is rare. And it speaks to who Merrick Garland is – not just as a lawyer, but as a man.”
If confirmed by the Senate, Garland would replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last month while on a trip in Texas.
Legal scholars also said Obama’s nominee would be difficult for Republicans to reject because of qualifications and moderate views on issues.
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted his reaction to Garland’s nomination.
“Merrick Garland is an outstanding choice for SCOTUS. A protector of civil rights and individual liberties. He MUST get a vote. #Doyourjob!”
The Black Women’s Roundtable/National Coalition issued a statement that says, “We support President Obama’s nomination. We strongly urged the U.S. Senate to live up to its constitutional responsibility and grant Judge Garland a fair committee hearing and an up or down vote in the full Senate.
Jesse L. Jackson Sr., founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said in a statement, “We hope and fully expect Republicans in the United States Senate will rise above obstructionist politics, do their duty, obey the U.S. Constitution they swore to uphold and give President Barack Obama’s sterling Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, a fair hearing and then an up or down vote.”
Congresswoman Robin Kelly said in a statement, “ President Obama’s choice of Chicago native Judge Merrick Garland as his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court gives Congress the opportunity to fill this crucial vacancy with a jurist of unparalleled experience and legal acumen. Garland has proven himself to be one of the best appellate judges in the country and his track record as a consensus builder has earned him bipartisan praise throughout his career.”
Garland was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit Court 76-23, with majority support from both Republicans and Democrats. He has served for 19 years on that court – often considered the most important appellate court in the nation. For over 3 years, he has been the Chief Judge of the D.C. Circuit, continuing to distinguish himself as one of the most impressive judges in the country. He has cultivated a reputation as a brilliant, meticulous judge with a knack for building consensus, playing it straight, and deciding every case based on what the law requires.
Chief Justice John Roberts, Garland’s colleague on the D.C. Circuit, once said that “anytime Judge Garland disagrees, you know you’re in a difficult area.” In 2010, as the Senate was beginning the process of confirming a successor to Justice John Paul Stevens, Senator Orrin Hatch said he saw Garland as “a consensus nominee” for the Supreme Court, adding “I have no doubts that Garland would get a lot of [Senate] votes. And I will do my best to help him get them.”
Garland was born and raised in Illinois, by a mother who served as a community volunteer and a father who ran a small business out of the family home. His grandparents immigrated to the United States to escape persecution and find a better life. He won scholarships to attend Harvard University – where he graduated summa cum laude – and Harvard Law School, paying his way by taking a summer job as a shoe store stock clerk, selling his comic book collection and counseling undergraduates.
Garland began his career as a clerk for legendary Second Circuit Judge Henry Friendly and then Supreme Court Justice William Brennan. In just four years, Chief Judge Garland became a partner at a prominent law firm, with a practice focused on litigation and pro bono representation of disadvantaged Americans.
Throughout his career, Chief Judge Garland has demonstrated a commitment to putting his country first. In 1989, shortly after becoming a partner in private practice, Garland accepted a significant pay cut to became a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C. under the Administration of President George H.W. Bush, where he investigated and prosecuted cases involving public corruption, drug trafficking and fraud.
He later was selected as the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice, and then as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General. In these roles, he oversaw some of the most important federal criminal cases brought by the Department.
In the wake of the Oklahoma City Bombing in April 1995, he traveled to Oklahoma to oversee the case, and in the ensuing months coordinated every aspect of the government’s response – working with federal agents, rescue workers, local officials, and others to bring the perpetrators to justice. He also kept in close touch with victims and their families throughout the case, and for several years afterwards as well. Later, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, a Republican, wrote that, during his work on the Oklahoma City bombing case, Chief Judge Garland “distinguished himself in a situation where he had to lead a highly complicated investigation and make quick decisions during critical times.”