Merrick Garland:  President Obama’s Nominee for the Supreme Court

Dear Commons Community,

Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, is drawing a lot of attention these days as elected officials and the media try to determine where he would side on critical issues, assuming of course that the Republican-controlled Senate will even consider his nomination.  The New York Times characterized him as moderate but “well to the left of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the member of the court at its ideological center and the one who often holds the controlling vote. A Supreme Court including Judge Garland would contain a five-member liberal bloc and put either him or perhaps Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the most conservative liberal, in what had been Justice Kennedy’s pivotal spot.”  The article mentions:

“He has achieved a rare distinction in a polarized era. He has sat on a prominent appeals court for almost two decades, participated in thousands of cases, and yet earned praise from across the political spectrum.

A look at a substantial sample of his opinions starts to supply some answers about how he managed this unlikely feat. His writings reflect an able and modest judge with a limited conception of his role working on a docket largely lacking in cases on controversial social issues.

His most charged cases, involving national security and campaign finance, were as likely to disappoint liberals as to please them. He has repeatedly voted against detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and he joined the Citizens United decision that gave rise to “super PACs.”

In more run-of-the-mill cases, he was apt to side with workers claiming employment discrimination and against criminal defendants who said their rights had been violated.

Throughout, Judge Garland’s opinions were models of judicial craftsmanship — unflashy, methodically reasoned, attentive to precedent and tightly rooted in the language of the governing statutes and regulations. He appears to apply Supreme Court precedents with punctilious fidelity even if there is reason to think he would have preferred a different outcome and even where other judges might have found room to maneuver.”

Judge Garland appears to be a compromise nominee.  It remains to be seen whether the Senate is willing to compromise and allow his nomination to go through.  Not likely, but Republican leaders will have to consider whether he would be a better choice than someone Hillary Clinton might appoint should she win the presidency.



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