President Obama said Wednesday he would nominate appeals court judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court caused by the death of associate Justice Antonin Scalia. Here are five things you should know about Judge Garland:
1. Garland currently serves as the chief judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The AP notes that at 63 years old, he would be the oldest Supreme Court nominee since Lewis Powell, who was 64 when he was confirmed in late 1971.
2. Garland graduated from both Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Following graduation, he clerked for Judge Henry Friendly of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals from 1977 to 1978, and then clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. from 1978 to 1979. He has served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and deputy assistant attorney general in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in the Clinton administration. From 1994 until his appointment as U.S. Circuit Judge, he served as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General, where his responsibilities included supervising the Oklahoma City bombing and UNABOM prosecutions. In 1995, President Clinton nominated Garland for a seat on the D.C. Circuit court.
3. During his confirmation hearing to the D.C. Circuit court, Garland was asked about "judicial activism." He answered that "[f]ederal judges do not have roving commissions to solve societal problems. The role of the court is to apply law to the facts of the case before it not to legislate, not to arrogate to itself the executive power, not to hand down advisory opinion on the issues of the day.”
4. Garland’s position on social issues is unclear. As Tom Goldstein notes, “Because the D.C. Circuit's caseload is dominated by regulatory challenges, few of the cases in which Judge Garland participated involve hot-button social issues like abortion or the death penalty.” But it’s presumed that Garland would pass President Obama’s litmus test on abortion rights.
5. Garland has said that one of his key influences is the judge he previously clerked for, Judge Henry Friendly, and that he often asks himself, “What would Judge Friendly have done?” (Prior to Roe v. Wade, Judge Friendly wrote a never published decision saying that, “the decision what to do about abortion is for the elected representatives of the people, not for three, or even nine, appointed judges.”) But Garland also described the release of the papers of the late Justice Blackmun — the author of Roe v. Wade — as a "great gift to the country."