By Noah Fortson
For Unwind magazine
President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court has been a consistent topic of political debate for months. In March, the Senate Republicans declined to adjourn for a confirmation session, opting to wait and hope their party won the presidency. Democrats argued that constitutionally the responsibility of appointing a Supreme Court justice belonged to the sitting president, Obama, regardless of how much time he had left in office.
Due to this disagreement, Garland’s hearing is now long overdue. He broke the record for the longest time a nominee has waited for confirmation long ago in July, and he might have to wait a while longer. However, if the day comes when Garland is confirmed, it’s important to understand his background and reputation.
In wake of justice Antonin Scalia’s death, President Obama and his staff moved quickly to appoint a justice with credentials that both parties admired. On March 16, the president announced from the White House rose garden that Garland was his choice.
“He is the right man for the job,” said Obama. “I could not be prouder of the work that he has already done on behalf of the American people.”
Garland graduated from Harvard Law School at the top of his class. He has built his resume by vehemently defending freedom of religion, environmental safety, and especially national security. While working for the U.S. Justice Department in the early and mid 1990s, Garland supervised several infamous cases including those of Ted Kaczynski, also known as the “Unabomber,” and Timothy McVeigh, the mastermind behind the Oklahoma City bombings.
Garland is the chief justice for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia where he has worked for the past twenty years. He has made a name for himself settling cases like Hutchins v. District of Columbia (1999), in which he helped establish rights for prisoners in juvenile detention centers.
He was appointed to the court by Bill Clinton and was confirmed by a vote of 76-23 in 1997. Of those who supported Garland, many were notable republicans such as John McCain, Susan Collins and Orrin Hatch.
“It is wrong to completely separate politics from the Supreme Court, but it is hard to find a less politically influenced judge than Merrick Garland,” said freshman government and politics major John Lawrence. “The Senate’s refusal to even vote on the nomination is a disservice to the American people.”
Garland is a moderate liberal and is widely known to be a reasonable colleague. In his twenty years on the D.C. Circuit he has written just fifteen dissenting opinions. He was considered for Supreme Court nomination by President Obama in 2009 as well as in 2010 before being selected in 2016.
Although Merrick Garland has received praise from members of both major parties and has an extensive resumé to compliment, he continues to wait for a hearing.
With new leadership in the White House, Garland’s fate is unclear. However, a determination on who the ninth Supreme Court justice will be is soon to come. Whether that person is Garland or not remains to be seen.