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3 Things to Know About Merrick Garland

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on March 16, 2016 11:30 AM

This morning, President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Garland is currently chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and would fill the vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia's death last month.

Most thought Sri Srinivasan, who serves on the same court as Garland, would be the President's pick, even hours before the official announcement. So Garland's nomination did catch some off guard. Who is Merrick Garland, and can we guess what kind of Supreme Court justice he might be?

1. He Comes With Ringing Endorsements

One big question has been whether any Obama nominee could actually be confirmed. Supreme Court nominees must be approved by the Senate, but Senate Republicans have said they will refuse to hold any confirmation hearings until a new president is elected. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reasserted the GOP stance after Garland's nomination today, accusing the president of politicizing the nomination "for the purpose of the election."

But Senator Orrin Hatch, the longest serving Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has had high praise for the nominee. Back in 2010, when Garland was being considered to fill Justice John Paul Stevens's former seat, Hatch described him as "a consensus nominee" to the Supreme Court and that there was "no question" he could be confirmed.

More recently, Hatch said Obama "could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man. He probably won't do that because this appointment is about the election. So I'm pretty sure he'll name someone the [liberal Democratic base] wants." That didn't happen, so we'll have to see if Republicans follow through with their threat to block any nominee.

2. He's Been Here Before

As we noted above, Garland's name was floated as a Supreme Court nominee following Justice Stevens's retirement. Ultimately, the seat went to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, but Garland had been thoroughly vetted and had support from both parties.

And the court on which he sits is a popular springboard to the highest court in the land. Supreme Court correspondent Jeffrey Toobin called the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit "a Supreme Court farm team," (noting future justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg all served there) and that gaining a confirmation to the D.C. Circuit can be a mere precursor to Supreme Court confirmation.

3. He's Been Around the Block

Garland is 63, which makes him the oldest person nominated to the Supreme Court since Justice Lewis Powell in 1971. And while his educational background is strikingly similar to the rest of the Court (Harvard educated, Supreme Court clerkships), he also has eight years of private practice and six years as a federal prosecutor on his resume.

During his time at the Department of Justice, he oversaw the investigation and prosecution of three the biggest domestic terrorism cases in U.S. history: the Oklahoma City bombing investigation and prosecution, the Unabomber prosecution, and the Atlanta Olympics bombings investigation. So Garland might be the most experienced Supreme Court nominee in some time.

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