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It's Back to the D.C. Circuit for Merrick Garland

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

It just wasn't meant to be for D.C Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland and the Supreme Court. On Monday, 278 days after Garland was first nominated to the Court by President Obama, Chief Justice Roberts rejected a long-shot attempt to force the Senate to consider Garland for the bench. The same day, the D.C. Circuit put Garland back on its schedule, announcing that he'd hear his first circuit oral arguments in more than ten months.

Garland's Supreme Court dreams have been snuffed.

Returning to the Bench, Ten Months Later

Garland currently serves as chief judge for the D.C. Circuit, but he hasn't heard a case since he was nominated for the Supreme Court in March, shortly after Justice Scalia passed away. He is a well-respected, much-liked jurist, whose nomination was praised by many in the legal world, but Senate Republicans effectively shut him out of the Court, refusing to advance his nomination to a full Senate hearing.

Responding to that inaction, New Mexico attorney Steve Michel sued in August, seeking to force Republicans to advance Garland's nomination. In not doing so, Michel argued, they had "created a constitutional crisis that threatens the balance and separation of power among our three branches of government."

Michel's suit was dismissed from district court in November, on standing grounds. The D.C. Circuit took the same view, and an emergency petition to Chief Justice Roberts followed, only to be denied on Monday, according to the Associated Press.

Also on Monday, Garland reappeared on the D.C. Circuit's calendar. He'll be back hearing oral arguments starting January 18th, according to the calendar, after he stopped hearing cases following his nomination ten months ago.

Garland's nomination is still technically pending, as Buzzfeed's Zoe Tillman notes, but Garland's chances of moving forward are null.

Gone But Not Forgotten

When President Obama nominated Garland to the Court, he praised him for his legal skill and "decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness, and excellence." Nominating a judge who was so widely respected, by both Republicans and Democrats, was seen by some as a challenge: Senate Republicans could obstruct the nomination, but at their own peril. Obstruct they did, however, and with little political consequence. Despite polling stating that the public believed Garland's nomination should go forward, when it came time to vote in November, there were few repercussions.

At the White House Hanukah dinner last week, President Obama continued to praise Garland, while seeming to acknowledge that the fight was lost. "We've got one of the country's finest jurists," he said in reference to Garland, "who I happened to have nominated to the Supreme Court and who's going to continue to serve our country with distinction as the chief judge on the D.C. Circuit."

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