President Barack Obama has nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Garland, a judicial moderate, currently serves as chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
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The announcement comes about a month after Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden death put the Supreme Court’s ideological balance up for grabs, and Garland’s nomination is certain to make him a new focal point in the intense partisan fight for control of the court.
Garland was born in Chicago and grew up in the suburbs of the Windy City. He received his undergraduate education from Harvard College, and later earned his law degree there in 1977. He then clerked for Judge Henry Friendly of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, both appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Garland was formerly a partner at law firm Arnold & Porter, but the majority of his career has been spent in government. He’s held roles as special assistant to the U.S. attorney general, assistant U.S. attorney for D.C. and deputy assistant attorney general.
Later, as principal associate deputy attorney general, Garland oversaw the prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombing and of Theodore Kaczynski, better known as the "Unabomber." President Bill Clinton nominated Garland to the D.C. Circuit, where he’s served since 1997. He became chief judge in 2013.
Chances of Being Confirmed
In recent weeks, Senate Republican leaders have vowed not to hold hearings on Obama's nominee, arguing that the decision ought to be made by the next president. But Garland’s reputation as a fair-minded, judicial moderate may undercut efforts by GOP opponents to obstruct his nomination. His law enforcement background, including his pursuit of the death penalty in high-profile prosecutions, may further insulate him from Republican attacks.
On the other hand, his Supreme Court clerkship under the liberal Justice Brennan, and his appointment to the D.C. Circuit by President Clinton, may supply ammunition to Senate Republicans.
Garland and wife Lynn were married in 1987 and have two daughters. His hobbies include tennis and skiing, according to The New York Times.
At age 63, Garland would be one of the oldest associate justices ever appointed to the Supreme Court, which may make his nomination somewhat surprising since presidents tend to pick younger justices who can serve longer terms. Garland was reportedly considered for the vacancies ultimately filled by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.