Know a Nominee: Judge Merrick Garland to be Attorney General
Do you support or oppose Garland’s nomination?
- The Senate on Wednesday cast a bipartisan vote of 70-30 to confirm Judge Merrick Garland as Attorney General. In the near future he will resign his position on the bench of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and be sworn in as AG.
- The Senate on Tuesday voted 70-29 to limit further debate on the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to be Attorney General. A confirmation vote is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
The Senate is expected to consider the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to be Attorney General this week starting with a procedural vote on Tuesday ahead of a probable confirmation vote on Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know about the nominee.
Who is Merrick Garland?
- Garland, 68, is a federal circuit judge of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit who has served on the bench since 1997 when he was appointed by President Bill Clinton. He was the chief judge of the circuit from 2013 to 2020.
- If confirmed, Garland will resign from his position on the bench, creating a vacancy on what is considered the second most prestigious court in the country behind only the Supreme Court. Three current Supreme Court justices served on the D.C. circuit prior to their elevation, including Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Clarence Thomas, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
- Following the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in early 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Garland to fill the vacancy. However, the Republican-controlled Senate declined to consider the Democratic president’s nominee, with then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) taking the position that the Senate need not consider a Supreme Court nominee put forward by a president of the opposing party in a presidential election year ― a precedent which became known as the “McConnell rule”. The vacancy was eventually filled by Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the GOP Senate.
- Before he was appointed to the D.C. Circuit, Garland alternated between working as an attorney in private practice and at the Dept. of Justice (DOJ). At the DOJ, Garland worked as a special assistant to the AG from 1979-1981; an assistant U.S. attorney in D.C. from 1989-1992 during which he was a prosecutor in a case regarding D.C. Mayor Marion Barry’s possession of cocaine; and as a deputy attorney general from 1993-1997 during which he supervised domestic terrorism cases including the Oklahoma City bombing, the “Unabomber”, and the Atlanta Olympics bombings.
- Garland earned his undergraduate degree with honors from Harvard College and his law degree with honors from Harvard Law School. After his graduation, Garland clerked for Judge Henry Friendly of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice William Brennan of the U.S. Supreme Court.
What’s the outlook for his nomination?
- During his confirmation hearings, Garland pledged to keep politics out of his decision-making process if he is confirmed as attorney general. He also declined to answer a number of policy-related questions posed by Republicans given he would return to his position as a federal judge if he isn’t confirmed, and weighing in on controversies he may be asked to adjudicate in cases that reach his court’s dockets could force him to recuse himself.
- Garland said that he had no discussion with President Joe Biden about intervening in the ongoing investigation into the business dealings of Hunter Biden, the president’s son, and that he sees no justification for halting the DOJ probe of the origins of the Russia collusion investigation that’s being conducted by Special Counsel John Durham.
- The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Garland’s nomination on a bipartisan vote of 15-7.
- When he was nominated to serve on the D.C. circuit in 1997, the Senate voted 76-23 to confirm Garland with all Democrats, including then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), and 29 Republicans in favor of his nomination. Current GOP Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) supported Garland’s confirmation, while Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Richard Shelby (R-AL) were among those opposed at the time.
What does it mean for the Dept. of Justice?
- The attorney general is the executive in charge of the Dept. of Justice (DOJ), which is responsible for enforcing federal law and administering justice.
- DOJ is composed of several law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the U.S. Marshals Service and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
- The DOJ also includes the U.S. Attorneys Offices, which prosecute cases for the federal government, and the Office of Legal Counsel which advises the president and executive branch agencies on legal matters, among other offices.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Garland: U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit via Wikimedia / Public Domain | DOJ HQ: Baseball Watcher via Wikimedia / Creative Commons)
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