Merrick Garland spoke at the White House Wednesday. Video still from WhiteHouse.gov.
President Barack Obama today nominated Merrick Garland, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, as the 113th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. If he is confirmed, he would replace U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died February 13. Earlier this year, Lawdragon selected Garland for the 2016 Lawdragon 500 – a list he has made before.
In his remarks nominating Garland, Obama underscored that in each of his prior two searches for a Supreme Court nominee, there was one name that rose to the top each time, Garland. While those two seats ultimately went first to Elena Kagan and then to Sonia Sotomayor, Garland has been perhaps the top consensus choice of the U.S. legal community for at least a decade.
A native Chicagoan, he graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School before following a path with a who's who of American jurists and legal icons. He clerked first for 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Henry Friendly, and then U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan. He became a prosecutor, briefly, before joining Arnold & Porter, where he became a partner. In 1989, he joined the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington, D.C., prosecuting gang crimes, and, as he said, persuading mothers and grandmothers who lived in public housing that they would be safe if they testified against the violent gang members who were terrorizing their neighborhood.
From there, he moved to the Department of Justice in 1993 and led the investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing, then the largest criminal investigation in U.S. history. There, he again made his mark with his compassion for victims of the violence. He carried with him a memorial service program for the 168 victims of the April 19, 1995 bombing, which included 19 children, most at a day care center that day. The lead conspirator, Timothy McVeigh, was convicted of the bombing, and executed, the first federal execution in the U.S. in 38 years.
The U.S. Attorney at that time, Jamie Gorelick, now a partner at WilmerHale, has said he is "supremely qualified." She told the Washington Post, "“We had a lot of very seasoned prosecutors, but when you have a matter that is both substantively difficult and cuts across the department, a really talented person such as Merrick will lead those,” said Gorelick. She added that Garland is a “brilliant lawyer and judge” who is known to be highly collegial even with colleagues across the ideological spectrum.
Clinton appointed Garland to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1995, and he was approved 76-23 after a 19-month delay.
As a Judge on the D.C. Circuit, Garland is considered an extremely thoughtful and moderate jurist, who has continued to earn near unanimous respect from the legal community. In 2006, when Lawdragon published The Lawdragon 500 Leading Judges in the U.S., Garland was a unanimous choice from the spectrum of U.S. lawyers and judicial peers.
"I said I would take this process seriously and I did," said Obama. Garland called the nomination the honor of his life – other than his wife agreeing to marry him.