Obama Nominates Judge Merrick Garland To The Supreme Court

Wednesday, March 16th 2016, 8:11 am
By: News 9

President Obama announced Wednesday morning that he is nominating U.S. Circuit Court Judge Merrick B. Garland for the Supreme Court seat once occupied by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

"Today, I am nominating Chief Judge Merrick Brian Garland to join the Supreme Court," Mr. Obama said from the White House Rose Garden with Garland and Vice President Joe Biden standing alongside him.

Garland currently serves as the chief judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, a post he took over in 2013. He has served on the D.C. appellate court since 1997, when he was nominated to the bench by former President Bill Clinton. He was confirmed in a 76-23 vote.

This is not the first time Garland, who hails from President Obama's home in Chicago, has been considered for a Supreme Court seat. Following the 2010 retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens from the Supreme Court, Garland's name was also floated for the nomination. The seat was eventually filled by Associate Justice Elena Kagan, then the Solicitor General.

Before his career as a judge, Garland, 63, held several positions in the public and private sectors.

Most recently, Garland worked as a prosecutor in the Department of Justice's criminal division. While at the DOJ, he served as principal associate deputy attorney general, where he supervised investigations into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

From 1985 to 1989, and then again from 1992 to 1993, Garland served as a partner in the law firm of Arnold and Porter in Washington, D.C.

Garland served as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan from 1978 to 1979.

Garland's appointment is a bipartisan appeal for President Obama, considering the judge's moderate history and support from senators across the aisle. In 1997, prominent Republican, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, assisted in securing his confirmation to the appeals court.

The White House is making a pitch for Garland's bipartisan appeal, citing in a background memo that in 2010, Sen. Orrin Hatch saw Garland as "a consensus nominee" for the court before Mr. Obama selected Elena Kagan.

"I have no doubts that Garland would get a lot of [Senate] votes," Hatch said at the time. "And I will do my best to help him get them."

Chief Justice John Roberts, who was once Garland's colleague on the D.C. circuit, has also praised Garland.

"Anytime Judge Garland disagrees, you know you're in a difficult area," Roberts once said.

But Hatch, in a phone interview with CBSN Wednesday morning before the nomination announcement, said that even if Garland was the president's choice, the Senate is "not going to move or even discuss the qualifications of any nominee until after the presidential election."

Of his previous support of Garland, Hatch said, "being on the circuit Court of Appeals is quite a bit different from being on the Supreme Court. It's not about the person, it's not about the president. It's about protecting the integrity of the court."

Seven sitting Republican senators voted to confirm Garland when he was nominated to the appellate court in 1997: Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana; Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi; Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma; Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona; Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas; and Hatch.

Five of the "no" votes from 1997 are also still in the Senate: Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky; Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming; Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama; and the current chairman of the Sen. Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

Garland graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1977. Before that, he earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard in 1974. Garland has also taught antitrust law at the university and once served as the school's Board of Overseers president.

In an email Wednesday morning, the president said he put a lot of effort into the decision and has been in contact with members of the Senate.

"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."

Garland, however, faces an uphill battle in Congress. The Senate must confirm his nomination, but the Republican majority has already ruled out considering it. They have said they will refuse to hold confirmation hearings or votes until the next president is sworn in next January.

Additionally, of the 23 senators that voted against Garland's appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1997, five of the "no" votes remain in the Senate: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi, Alabama Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley. Seven sitting Republican senators who voted to confirm Garland also continue to serve in the senate: Sens. Coats, Cochran, Collins, Hatch, Inhofe, McCain, and Roberts.

Mr. Obama has called on Senate Republicans to fulfill their constitutional responsibility to confirm his nominee and ensure that the court is complete with nine members. But GOP leaders have offered little to no wiggle room as they wish to make the 2016 presidential election a referendum on the future of the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, critical cases that the high court will hear this cycle hang in the balance. And if rulings result in a 4-4 decision, the lower court's ruling would stand.

Garland's appointment comes just over a month after Scalia's sudden death at a resort in Texas at the age of 79. Nominated by President Ronald Reagan, he was the longest-serving member on the Supreme Court.

CBS News' Jan Crawford, Margaret Brennan and Grace Lamb Atkinson contributed to this report.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt released the following statement regarding President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court:  

“Today, the President nominated Merrick Garland as the replacement for conservative icon Justice Antonin Scalia. Two Constitutional duties exist in the filling of a Supreme Court vacancy: the President’s duty to nominate and the Senate’s duty to confirm or not confirm. These duties are equal. The President must realize that just because the Senate is not acting in the way that he wants them to act, doesn’t mean they aren’t doing their job; in fact, they are doing exactly their job in standing strong and exercising their Constitutional authority. They just happen to disagree with this President’s judicial philosophy, and rightfully so. I am hopeful the American people will have the opportunity to weigh in on this decision in November.”