Merrick Garland currently serves as Chief Justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. With almost 25 years of service as Federal Judge and court of appeals (HRC.org). A graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School. After graduating served at Judicial Clerk under Judge Henry Friendly of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit and for Justice Brennan. Mr. Garland has worked in the United States Attorney General’s Office and Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (HRC.org).
President Obama nominated Mr. Garland to fill the vacancy of Antonin Scalia, confirmed by Ronald Regan in 1986, who died February 13, 2016 at 79 years old (WSJ, Scalia). Garland was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1997 and is considered a moderate and fairly uncontroversial based on his court rulings. Most notable, are his dissent opinions on regulatory power and access to government, calling for more accountability (WSJ, dissent).
Garland is reported to not favor gun rights, is supportive of unions, has dissented to side with defendants in criminal trials, supporting financial regulation, dissenting opinion in favor of recognizing human rights abuses and allowing suit (WSJ, centrist).Garland is known for consensus building, some report that Obama is playing it safe to get a justice appointed before his term is over (WSJ, centrist). As an officer of the court he seeks justice rather than political posturing and positioning. Focusing on constitutionality rather than partisanship.
Some report Republicans will maintain this position as concerns grow that Donald Trump as party Presidential Candidate will not win against Hillary Clinton in the election in November (WSJ, GOP).
An attempt to cut President Obama’s term short. He is still in office for almost another full year and conservative Senators are trying to obstruct his ability to do his job turning a full year of Presidency into a symbolic title.
Conservative rulings, such as Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Shelby County v. Holder, that have been both far-reaching conservative rulings and countered Obergefell vs. Hodges (2015), and Windsor vs. United States (2013). Under Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, the President shall nominate a Justice to the Supreme Court “by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” This is an attempt to influence the nomination rather than evaluate the experience and qualifications of the nominee by choosing which President will make the nomination (Position Letter).
The concern is the non-procedural stalling methods of some Senators, the President is given the power to nominate Supreme Court Justices, the Senate needs to consider them, ultimately, government should not run solely on partisan political lines. Both sides should consider each nominee in standard procedure rather than using power to push partisanship. That is one of the greatest concerns of partisanship and Obama’s administration, that policy and progress have been slowed by tactics rather than parties working for compromise.
The next president will have the opportunity to appoint about 12 federal judges, nine on the federal court of appeals. Obama’s appointments in his two Presidential terms have shifted the Federal Appeals Courts from Republican to Democratic majorities.Since Republicans have gained a majority in the Senate, they have been able to block Obama’s more recent appointmentsTwenty-nine more judges will become eligible for retirement between 2017 and 2020 (WSJ, judicial vacancies). A 1992 CSPAN interview with Joe Biden reported his distaste for Supreme Court appointments in the final year of a Presidential term but more significantly notes that delaying an appointment could cause a Constitutional crisis because eight presiding judges could result in a long series of cases with an even split and no deciding vote (WSJ, Biden).
For the LGBT community, a primary concern is the Obergefell vs. Hodges (2015) and other Supreme Court Marriage Equality rulings including the 2013 Edie Windsor ruling. Conservative Presidential Candidates like Ted Cruz have promised to appoint highly conservative Justices to overturn these rulings and make other Constitutional changes to keep the Supreme Court and Federal Government from recognizing LGBT marriages (HRC.org, Ted Cruz). Republican Senators have been split in preliminary votes on Garland and are concern that Clinton could nominate a more liberal than Garland who is considered a centrist (WSJ, nomination).