President Obama Nominates Merrick Garland for Supreme Court

Merrick Garland is a judicial moderate who currently serves as chief justice of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
32:57 | 03/16/16

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Transcript for President Obama Nominates Merrick Garland for Supreme Court
This is an ABC news special work. Battle for the Supreme Court now reported George Stephanopoulos. Good morning we are breaking in now because pres Obama is about to and other Rose Garden with his pick for the Supreme Court. An ABC news has learned that the president will nominate judge Merrick Garland you see in there. Chief judge of the Court of Appeals in Washington DC this nomination of course to fill a vacancy left by the death of justice Antonin Scalia last month. As we wait to the president wanted to ABC's Terry Moran at the Supreme Court and Terry judge judge Garland seen as a moderate for the most part senior justice on the. C circuit. In an in any other year he might be seen as relatively as a relatively safe pick. Absolutely. George. This is a man with a long and distinguished career. In the judiciary in legal circles he's deeply admired he would be in reasonable normal times. Eminently confirmable in fact just last week senator Orrin hatch a leading Republican on these issues said that Merrick Garland is a fine man and may be President Obama should name him thinking he wouldn't and so we'll hear Orrin hatch I think changes tune on this but Garland is 63 years old. He has been a prosecutor he led the prosecutions of the Oklahoma City bombing and of the unabomber so he has experience that way. At those were death penalty prosecutions as well. And he is as I say a judge's judge seen among his colleagues. As the kind of judge who takes each case as it comes reads the briefs checks the law you can't really predict. Where he's going to come out they in fact liberals have not been happy with his name surfacing in previous Supreme Court vacancies. This is a nomination the President Obama is essentially saying to the senate here's somebody that we can do business with. Take him and and see him for what he is the distinguished moderate judge however these are not reasonable times out. Did you senators led by Republican leader Mitch McConnell said they will not even get a hearing the president's pick they're saying it's not about. He individual it is about the process someone or go to John Carl is at the white house with this as well and John. So far no signs of that opposition is gonna crack. No signs at all in fact we've already heard this morning from several Republicans or their spokes people on the Senate Judiciary Committee saying. Not only will there not be a confirmation vote. On the president's pick on Merrick Garland but there won't even be a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee it won't even get to the first step. That said George the White House is prepared for an all out campaign for moral garlands nomination. I expect to see this be a major theme for the present in this is. In many ways one of his last if not last major legacy. Pics here and they will do an all out fight to put pressure on those Republicans. To at least give Merrick Garland a hearing before the senate and be seen. Mary Bruce on Capitol Hill right now we're gonna hear from Mitch McConnell after the president speaks. Yeah but you've already spoken to some Republican senators including those who voted for judge Garland in the past. Absolutely and some of those of Republicans actually welcoming the pick of Merrick Garland because they point out that senator Mitch McConnell and senator Chuck Grassley of course the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee actually voted against Garland when he was confirmed in the past. They say that that bolsters their argument against the White House. They that they feel strongly that they will not consider the president's nominee and even those of course who did support Garland in the past and they say it simply does not matter. This is not about Merrick Garland himself this is all about principle. Principals so they say they're not gonna move at all said it will not be hearing for the president's pick the president in the Oval Office now will judge Garland 63. Years old Terry Moran. On the on the older side for a nomination to Supreme Court. He is he'd be one of the oldest justices ever named the Supreme Court presidents like to pick a younger than they have a longer tenure in the presidential influence will remain on the court longer. And Merrick Garland. Has been kind of a bridesmaid again and again for democratic presidents when vacancies have emerged he is the guy that got passed over again again this is his time. Unfortunately other Republicans. Not only won't hold hearings several limits that they won't even meet him they won't even shake the man's hand which is a very old courtesy and Supreme Court nominations. That's the kind of opposition he's facing senator cornyn of Texas predicting he's going to be turned into a pinata. Here's a press. Here comes the president now the judge Carl. And vice president. Good morning. Herbert please have seat. Of the many powers and responsibilities. That the constitution vests in the presidents are. Fewer more consequential. And appointing. A Supreme Court justice. Particularly want to succeed Justice Scalia one of the most influential jurists of our time. The men and women who sit on the Supreme Court. For of the final are murders of American law. They safeguard our rights. They ensure that our. System is one of laws and not men. They're charged would be essential task of applying principles put to paper more than. Two centuries ago to some of the most challenging questions of our time. So this is not they responsibility that I take lightly. The decision the requires me to set aside short term expediency. And error politics. So as to maintain faith what our founders. And perhaps more importantly what future generations. And that's why over the past several weeks I've done my best to set up a rigorous and comprehensive process. I've sought the advice of Republican and democratic members of congress. We've reached out to every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Two constitutional scholars to advocacy groups to bar associations representing an array of interest and opinions from all across. The spectrum. And today. After completing this exhaustive process. I've made my decision. A select a nominee who is widely recognized not only is one of America's sharpest legal minds. But someone who brings to his work as spirit decency. Modesty. Integrity. Even handedness. And excellence. These qualities. And his long commitment to public service. Have earned him the respect and admiration of leaders from both sides of the you'll Altima only bring that same character to bear on the Supreme Court. An institution in which he is uniquely prepared to serve immediately. Today I am nominating chief judge Merrick Brian Garland. To join the Supreme Court. Now. In law enforcement circles and in the legal community at large judge Garland needs no introduction. But I'd like to take a minute introduce Merrick to the American people whom he already so ably serves. He was born and raised in Milan like. Him my hometown of Chicago and my home state of Illinois. His mother volunteered in the community his father ran a small business out of their home. Inheriting that work ethic Merrick became valedictorian of his public high school. He earned a scholarship to Harvard where he graduated sumo come lot of he put himself through Harvard Law School by working as a tutor. My stocking shoes and a shoe store. And what is always a painful moment for any young man by selling his comic book collection. Stuff the minute. Merrick graduated magna cum laude from Harvard law and the early years of his legal career fair all the traditional marks of excellence. He clerked for two of president Eisenhower's judicial appointees. First for a legendary judge on the second circuit. Judge Henry friendly and then for Supreme Court justice William Brennan. Following his clerk ships are joined a highly regarded lawful want to practice focused on litigation and pro Bono representation of disadvantaged Americans. Within four years he earned a partnership. To dream of most lawyers. But in 1989. Just months after that achievement. Merit made it a highly unusual for her decision. He walked away from a comfortable and lucrative law practice. To return to public service. America except to the low level job as a federal prosecutors and president George HW Bush's administration. Took a 50% pay cut. Traded at as elegant partner's office for a windowless closet with smell the stale cigarette smoke. This is a time when crime here in Washington reached epidemic proportions and he wanted to help. And he quickly made a name for himself going after corrupt politicians and violent criminals. Just sterling record as a prosecutor led him to the Justice Department. Where he oversaw some of the most significant prosecutions in the 1990s. Including. Overseeing every aspect of the federal response. To the Oklahoma City bombing. In the aftermath of that act of terror 168. People. Many of them small children were murdered. America had 1 evening to say goodbye and it was all young daughters before he boarded a plane to Oklahoma City. And he would remain there for weeks. He works side by side with first responders. Rescue workers. Local and federal law enforcement. He led the investigation and supervise the prosecution that. Brought Timothy McVeigh to justice. But perhaps most important is the way he did. Throughout the process Merrick took pains to do everything by the book. When people offered to turn over evidence voluntarily he refused taking the harder route of obtaining the proper subpoenas and staff. Because Merrick would take no chances that someone. Who murdered innocent Americans might go free on a technicality. Merrick also made a concerted effort to reach out to the victims and their families. Updating them frequently on the case is progress. Everywhere he went he carried with them in his briefcase the program from the memorial service. With each of the victims' names inside. A constant searing reminder of why he had to succeed. Judge Garland has often referred to his work on the Oklahoma City case as. And I quote the most important thing I have ever done in my life. And through it all he never lost touch wood that community that he served. It's no surprise then that soon after his work in Oklahoma City. Merrick was nominated to what's often called the second highest court in the lacked the DC Circuit Court. During that process. During that confirmation process he earned. Overwhelming. Bipartisan praise from senators and legal experts alike. Republican senator Orrin hatch who was then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Supported his nomination. Back then he said in all honesty I would like to see one person come to this floor and say one reason why Merrick Garland does not deserve this position. The actually accused fellows senate Republicans trying to obstruct merits confirmation of playing politics would judges. And his sense said that judge Garland would be a consensus nominee for the Supreme Court who would be. Very well supported by all sides and there would be no question America would be confirmed what bipartisan support. Ultimately Merrick was confirmed to the DC circuit. The second highest court Moya. Was boats from a majority of Democrats and a majority of Republicans. Three years ago he was elevated. The chief judge. And in his nineteen years on the DC circuit. Judge Garland has brought his trademark diligence. Compassion. And unwavering regard for the rule of law to his work. Circuit Court known for strong minded judges on both ends of the spectrum. Judge Garland has earned a track record of building consensus as a thoughtful fair minded judge who follows the law. He's shown a rare ability to bring together odd couples. Assemble unlikely coalitions. Persuade colleagues would ride ranging judicial philosophy is to sign onto his opinions. And this record on the bench speaks I believed to judge garlands fundamental temperament his insistence that. All views deserve a respectful here. His habit to bar phrase from former justice John Paul Stevens of understanding. Before disagree. And then disagreeing without being disagreeable. That speaks to his ability to persuade. To respond to the concerns of others with sound arguments and airtight logic. As his former colleague on the DC circuit and our current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts once said. Any time a judge Garland disagrees. You know you're in a difficult area. At the same time she judge Garland is more than just a brilliant legal mind. He's someone who has a keen understanding. The justice is about more than abstract legal fair. More than some footnote in a dusty k.'s book. His life experience and his experience in places like Oklahoma City informs his view that the law as more than an intellectual exercise. He understands the way it law affects the daily reality of people's. Lives in a big complicated democracy and and rapidly changing times. And throughout his jurisprudence runs a common threat. A dedication to protecting the basic rights of every American. A conviction that in a democracy powerful voices month not be allowed to drown out the voices. But every day Americans. To find someone with such a long career of public service. Marked by complex and sensitive issues. To find someone. Who just about everyone not only respects but genuinely likes. That is rare. And it speaks to move Merrick Garland is not just as a lawyer but as a man. People respect the way he treats others. His genuine courtesy and respect for his colleagues and those who come before his court. They admire his civic mindedness mentoring as clerks throughout their careers. Urging them to use their legal trained to serve their communities. Setting his own example by touring a young student at a northeast DC elementary school each year for the past eighteen years. They're moved by his deep devotion to a spam. When whose wife of nearly thirty years and their two daughters Becky and Jessica. As a family million dollars or lot of hiking and skiing and canoeing and their love of America. By visiting our national parks. People respect merits deep and abiding passion. For protecting our most basic constitutional rights. It's a passion I'm told that manifested itself at an early age. And one stories and victim roots it's notable. As valedictorian of his high school class he had to deliver a commencement address. The other students speaker that day spoke first and unleashed a fiery critique. Of the Vietnam War. Fearing the controversy that might result several parents decide to unplug the sound system. And the rest of the students' speech was muffled. American necessarily agree with the tone of his classmates remarks. Nor his choice of topic for that day but stirred by the side of a fellow students boys being silenced. He tossed aside his prepared remarks. And delivered instead on the spot a passionate impromptu defense. Of our first amendment rights. It was the beginning of a lifelong career as they lawyer and I. Prosecutor and as a judge devoted to protecting the rights of others. And he has done that work would decency and humanity and common sense. The common touch. I'm proud it'll continue that work. On a our nation's highest court. I said I would take this process seriously and I did. I chose a serious man and exemplary judge. Merritt rural. Over my seven years as president in all my conversations with senators from both parties. In which I ask their views on qualified Supreme Court nominees. This includes. The previous true seeks that I had to fill the one name that has come up repeatedly. From Republicans and Democrats alike is Merrick Garland. Not recognize. That we have entered. The political season or perhaps these days it never ends. A political season that is even noisier and more volatile than usual. I know the Republicans will point to Democrats who made it hard for. Republican presidents to get their nominees confirmed. And they're not wrong about that. There's been politics involved in nominations in the past although it should be pointed out that in each of those instances. Democrats ultimately confirmed. A nominee. Put forward by a Republican president. I also know the because of justice scalia's outsize role on the court. In an American law. And the fact that Americans are closely divided on a number of issues before the court. It is attempting to make this confirmation process simply an extension. Of our divided politics. The squabbling roots going on in the news every day. But to go down that path would be wrong. There would be a bit trail. Of our best traditions. And a betrayal of the vision of our founding documents. At a time when our politics are so polarized. At a time when norms and customs of political rhetoric. And courtesy and comedy. As so often treated like their disposable. This is precisely the time when we should play it straight. And treat the process of appointing a Supreme Court justice with the seriousness and care it deserves. Because our Supreme Court. Really is unique. It's supposed to be above politics it has to be. And it should stay that way. To suggest that someone as qualified and respected as Merrick Garland. Doesn't even deserve a hearing him let alone an up or down vote. To join an institution as important as our Supreme Court went two thirds of Americans believe otherwise. That would be unprecedented. To suggest that someone who has served his country would honor and dignity. Would that distinguished track record of delivering justice for the American people. Might be treated as one Republican leaders stated as a political pinata. Thank Camby right. Tomorrow judge Garland will travel to the hill to begin meeting with senators one on one. I simply ask Republicans in the senate. To give him a fair hearing. And then an up or down vote. If you don't then it will not only be an abdication of the Senate's constitutional duty. It will indicate a process for nominating and confirming judges that is beyond repair. You'll mean everything. Is subject to the most partisan politics everything. It won't provoke an analyst cycle. Of more tit for tat and make it increasingly possible for any president. Democrat or Republican to carry out their constitutional function. The reputation of the Supreme Court will inevitably suffer. Faith in our justice system will. Inevitably suffer. Our democracy will ultimately suffer as well. I have fulfilled my constitutional duty. Now it's time for the senate to do bears. Presidents do not stop working in the final year of their turf. Neither should a sub. Another tomorrow the senate will take a break and leave town on recess for two weeks. Meyer earnest hope is that senators take that time to reflect on the importance of this process toward democracy. Not what's expedient. Now what's happening of the moment. What does this mean for our institutions. Per common life. The stakes the consequences. The seriousness of the job we all swore an oath to do. And when they were turned. I hope that they'll act in a bipartisan fashion. I hope their fair. That's all. I hope they are fair. As they did when they confirm merit Garland to the DC circuit. I ask that may confirm what Merrick Garland now to the Supreme Court. So that he can take his seat. In time to fully participate. In its work for the American people this fall. Q is the right man. For the job. He deserves. To be controlled. I could not be prouder. Of the work that he is already done on behalf of the American people. He deserves our thanks. And deserves fair here. And when that I've liked him might. Judge Garland to say few works. Thank you Mr. President. This is the greatest honor of my life. Other than lay and agreeing to marinated. Tanya is yours a couple. It's also the greatest gift I've ever received except and there's another caveat the birth of our daughters. Jessie and Becky. As my parents taught me by both words and deeds. A life of public services as much a gift to the person who serves. As it is to those he is serving. And for me there could be no higher public service and serving as a member of the United States Supreme Court. My family deserves much of the credit for the path that led me here. My grandparents left the pale of settlement the border of western Russia and Eastern Europe. The early nineteen hundreds. Fleeing anti semitism. And hoping to make a better life for their children in America. They settled in the midwest. Eventually making their way to Chicago. There are my father who ran the smallest of small businesses. From a room in our basement. It took me with him. As he made the runs to its customers. Always impressing upon the importance of hard work and fair dealing. Here are my mother had in the local PTA and school board and directed a volunteer services agency. All the while instilling in my sisters and me. The understanding. That service to the community. Is a responsibility. Above all others. Even now my sister's honor that example. I serving the children. Of their communities. I know that my mother is watching this on television. And crying her eyes and looked. So are my sisters who have supported me and every step I have ever taken. I only wish that my father were here to see this today. I also wish that we haven't talked my older daughter to be so adventurous and she would be hiking in the mountains out of cell service range. And the president called. There was the sense of responsibility. To serve the community instilled by my parents. That led me to leave my law firm to become a line prosecutor 1989. There are one of my first assignments was to assist in the prosecution of a violent gang that come down to the district from New York. Took over a public housing project and terrorize the residents. The hardest job we faced was persuading mothers. And grandmothers. That if they testified. We would be able ta keep them safe. And convict the gang members. We succeeded only invite convincing witnesses and victims that they could trust that the rule of law would prevail. Years later when I went to Oklahoma City to investigate the bombing of the federal building. I saw up close. The devastation that can happen when someone. Abandons the justice system to system. As a way of resolving grievances and instead takes matters into his own hands. Once again I saw the importance of assuring victims and families to the justice system could work. We promised. Her we would find the perpetrators. That we would bring them to justice and that we would do it in a way that honored the constitution. The people of Oklahoma City gave us their trust. And if we did everything we could to live up to it. Trust that justice will be done. In our courts without prejudice or partisanship. Is what in a large part distinguishes this country from others. People must be confident that a judge's decisions are determined by the law and only the law. For a judge to be worthy of such trust he or she must be faithful to the constitution. And to vote statutes passed by the congress. He or she must put aside his personal views or preferences and follow the law and not make it. Fidelity to the constitution and the law has been the cornerstone of my. Professional life. And is the hallmark of the kind of judge I have tried to beat for the past eighteen years. If the senate sees fit to confirming to the position for which I've been nominated today. I promised to continue. On that course. Mr. President. It's a great privilege to be nominated by a fellow Chicago and I am grateful behind words for that I'm you have distorted. Judge Merrick Garland. Section of the president's commission to serve on the Supreme Court found. How his life that comes after. A stirring again somewhat tough speech by President Obama. Aiming directly at the senate who said they are not gonna give any nominee for the president hearing saying the president has done his job he is played it straight. He expects the senate to do the same. Any hopes that they will be fair. To judge Carano money that it's C Terry Moran at the Supreme Court. Right now the president listed judge garlands qualities so they are modesty integrity even handedness and excellence. And. You heard George in his statement as he struggled to control his emotions the natural emotions for somebody on the verge of a nomination like this. Some of those qualities that that sweetness that colleagues have said is right at the middle of and that that people who have cases before him. Have felt confidence in his ability. To judge fairly and with this nomination as President Obama has suggested he's. Done what he could. To make the confirmation system work. At this point he has acknowledged I think with this nomination of a 63 year old. Moderate. Glittering resume jurist. Where he is in his presence he's acknowledged the kind of election year politics that he faced and and he says essentially with the nomination of merit Garland let's do business. On this nomination it remains to be seen whether any of this matters. At all to a Republican Party which is determined to block this altogether that is the question let me take that to John call right now at the White House as well the president also. In his speech John quoting Republicans like Orrin hatch one of the senior Republicans who served. I'm Judiciary Committee saying that merit from the hasn't been a consensus candidate also quoting Chief Justice John robbers. It Roberts is Teri asked the big question is. Is this gonna make any difference or have the Republicans in the senate completely dug in now it will not give judge Garland hearing. Remote. Republicans have made it clear before this day George that this had absolutely nothing to do with who the president would ultimately pick. But with the when he was making this pick I don't think this will make any difference who the Republicans. They have made it clear. Odd that this is it's simply the fact that the president in his final year final months in office should not be able to pick somebody name somebody to the court. That will change the balance of that court. For potentially. A generation to come and keep in mind as the Republicans look at this this is not simply a Supreme Court vacancy. They are replacing justice Antonin Scalia somebody that was really seen as the conservative. Cornerstone of the Supreme Court. They don't want to see President Obama and his final months replacing that person and you know frankly. David date they've made it clear that does matter who that person is that he names even though. Merrick Garland clearly if somebody you in the past. Has had respect. Up from Republicans to OK Jon Carl Cameron thanks very much again pres Obama has nominated. Judge Merrick Garland supreme.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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