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President Obama nominates Judge Merrick Garland to U.S. Supreme Court

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by Frederick H. Lowe

President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court caused by the unexpected death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative, who died on February 13.

President Obama said he nominated Judge Garland after completing an exhaustive process. “I’ve made my decision.  I’ve selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness, and excellence,” President Obama said.

Judge Merrick Garland, who has been nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, with President Obama.

As had been signaled for months, the nomination immediately ran into opposition from Republicans, some of whom think very highly of the 63-year-old Garland, a former federal prosecutor and a member of the court for 19 years.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s Majority Leader, said after President Obama introduced Judge Garland during a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, Senate Republicans would not meet with the nominee or consider Garland’s nomination because this is a presidential election year.

McConnell (R., Ky.), argued that Obama’s successor in the White House should make the nomination.

McConnell spoke in the U.S. Senate. Sitting behind McConnell was Orrin Hatch, (R., Utah), a member of Senate Judiciary Committee, which decides whether a nominee goes before the full Senate for an up or down vote.

In the past, Hatch has expressed nothing but praise for Garland, adding the President Obama should nominate him as an Associate Justice for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sen. Hatch told NewsMax, a right-wing magazine, that [Obama] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man. In 2010, Sen. Hatch said he had known [Garland], seen as a leading contender for the Supreme Court, for years and that he would be ‘ a consensus nominee.’

Nominees during presidential election years

The White House challenged McConnell’s views concerning nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court during presidential election years.

The White House reported that six Associate Justices to the U.S. Supreme Court have been confirmed in presidential election years since 1900. “The most recent Justice to be confirmed in an election year was Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was nominated by President Ronald Reagan, the White House reported. The Democratic-controlled Congress confirmed Kennedy’s nomination in February of 1988.

The White House also noted that since 1875, every Supreme Court nominee has received a Senate hearing or a vote.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Funds wants hearing on Garland

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund congratulated Judge Garland, a Chicago native, on his nomination, and LDF called on the Senate to consider his nomination.

Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of LDF, emphasized the need for the Senate to immediately begin the process of reviewing Judge Garland’s record and fulfilling its constitutional “advise and consent” function.

“Now that the President has exercised his constitutional authority to nominate Judge Garland for the Supreme Court, we expect that the Senate will fulfill its constitutional responsibility and hold a fair and prompt hearing,” Ifill said.

Garland, who was born and raised in Chicago, graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan. Garland worked for a time in private practice. After leaving private practice, he joined the U.S. Justice Department where he headed the prosecution of the Oklahoma City bomber.

In 1997,  he was confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by a vote of 76-23.  Thirty-two Republicans voted for him.

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