January 8, 2021

Merrick Garland

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“President-elect Joe Biden has selected Merrick Garland, a federal appeals court judge who in 2016 was snubbed by Republicans for a seat on the Supreme Court, as his attorney general, two people familiar with the selection process said Wednesday… In picking Garland, Biden is turning to an experienced judge who held senior positions at the Justice Department decades ago, including as a supervisor of the prosecution of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.” AP News

Many from both sides applaud Garland’s selection:

“Even as Republicans refused to consider Garland’s Supreme Court nomination — usually on the pretext that Supreme Court vacancies shouldn’t be filled in a presidential election year — they couldn’t dispute his professional qualifications or his integrity. In fact, Obama nominated Garland over potentially more polarizing candidates because it was hoped he would garner Republican support…

“Different times call for different attributes in an attorney general. These times, like the post-Watergate era, call for an attorney general who has been aloof from politics. After Trump and former Atty. Gen. William Barr undermined the Justice Department’s image as an impartial enforcer of criminal law, Biden’s overriding priority is to restore the department’s reputation for integrity. To accomplish that mission, Garland is an inspired choice.”
Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times

“Mr. Garland’s experience as a prosecutor during the high-crime 1990s may help balance anti-police sentiment in the Administration. His vaunted status among Democrats, who feel he was wronged by the 2016 Republican decision not to seat him on the Supreme Court, might give him more credibility to make decisions that disappoint progressives…

“Yet amid explosive partisan tensions, the most important Justice priority is to restore confidence that the federal government’s greatest domestic powers are accountable and not abused for political ends. Mr. Biden’s choice of Judge Garland over a more polarizing pick bodes well for his Administration.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“Garland led the Justice Department’s prosecution of Timothy McVeigh—the right-wing radical who killed hundreds of people by bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Garland faces a daunting challenge in the wake of Wednesday’s events

“Right-wing extremism has been on the rise in this country for years, and the threat of domestic right-wing violence and terrorism must be one of this country’s top law enforcement priorities. That is a long-term challenge that he and Lisa Monaco—Biden’s nominee for deputy attorney general, who was a senior Homeland Security official and counterterrorism adviser in the Obama administration—should be far more willing and equipped to handle than Trump’s officials have been.”
Ankush Khardori, Slate

Critics note that “Garland is a former prosecutor whose record on civil liberties is particularly concerning… The American Civil Liberties Union's comprehensive evaluation of his circuit court tenure found Garland to be a careful craftsman with a fairly liberal record on issues like civil rights but a conservative record on civil liberties. According to the report, Garland ‘very rarely ruled in favor of defendants in Fourth Amendment cases,’ and his ‘notable sentencing decisions similarly demonstrate a pro-prosecution perspective.’…

“Admittedly, Democratic elites have generally moved to the left on civil liberties in the last decade as the horrible costs of mass incarceration and police overreach become increasingly manifest (or, at least, increasingly harder to ignore than they had before), and it's possible that Garland has reconsidered some of his positions. But after a summer of robust protests against police violence against Black people, it would be preferable to have a leader rather than a follower on these issues.”
Scott Lemieux, NBC News Think

From the Right

“In 25 years on the DC Circuit, Garland has proven himself a gifted, scrupulous judge. As a proven centrist, he already has the backing of Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Susan Collins (Maine), who all cite his integrity and independence and say they’ll be happy to see him run the FBI…

“It’s a sound choice that will also give Democrats some symbolic satisfaction after the GOP-run Senate refused to consider his nomination to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016. More important — and in a break with recent Democratic presidencies — he’s well-suited to keep partisan politics out of Justice Department decision-making.”
Editorial Board, New York Post

Some argue, “I have never seen good evidence that Garland is other than a consistent liberal. In 2016, the New York Times found that, on the ideological spectrum, Garland fell just to the left of Elana Kagan and just to the right of Ruth Bader Ginsburg… Claims that Garland is moderate are based on his willingness to defer to federal agencies. But deference to the administrative state is not a moderate approach. It’s a central tenet of the left and has been for a century…

“[Furthermore] this is only part of Biden’s play. Garland’s confirmation will create a vacancy on the D.C. Circuit. This will pave the way for Biden to nominate a young, ideologically committed leftist — someone more radical than the liberal Garland — to the second most important court in the land (Garland is 68)…

“Elections have [consequences]. Biden’s DOJ-D.C. Circuit play is a foreseeable consequence of the latest elections. There’s nothing abnormal about what Biden is doing here. But there isn’t anything moderate about it, either.”
Paul Mirengoff, Power Line Blog

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