President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated Merrick B. Garland as the nation’s 113th justice, choosing a centrist appeals court judge widely respected even by Republicans in hopes his choice will be considered by the Senate.
In announcing Garland as his choice, the president said Garland “earned overwhelming bipartisan praise from senators and legal experts alike.” He added: ““He is the right man for the job. He deserves to be confirmed.”
Noting that Garland led the investigation and supervised the prosecution that brought Timothy McVeigh to justice in the Oklahoma City bombing, the president declared: “Merrick Garland would take no chances that someone who murdered innocent Americans might go free on a technicality.”
In deciding on Garland, Obama picked a man who persevered through a lengthy political battle in the mid-1990s that delayed his own confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by more than a year. Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, argued at the time that the vacancy should not be filled.
Twenty years later, Grassley is again standing in the way of Garland’s appointment, this time arguing as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that the next president should be the one to pick the successor to Justice Antonin Scalia, who died suddenly in February.
Garland is often described as brilliant and, at 63, is somewhat aged for a Supreme Court nominee. He is two years older than Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who has been with the court for more than 10 years. The two served together on the appeals court and are said to be friends.
Because of his position, disposition and bipartisan popularity, Garland has been on Obama’s shortlist of potential nominees for years. In 2010, when Obama interviewed him for the slot that he instead gave to Justice Elena Kagan, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, said publicly that he had urged Obama to nominate Garland as “a consensus nominee” who would win Senate confirmation.
“I know Merrick Garland very well,” Hatch said at the time. “He would be very well supported by all sides.”
“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,” Obama said in an email to supporters Wednesday. “In putting forward a nominee today, I am fulfilling my constitutional duty. I’m doing my job. I hope that our senators will do their jobs, and move quickly to consider my nominee.”
Obama said that he was “confident you’ll share my conviction that this American is not only eminently qualified to be a Supreme Court justice, but deserves a fair hearing and an up-or-down vote.”
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.