President Obama has nominated 63-year-old Judge Merrick Garland to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.
He’s a moderate justice who serves as Chief Judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. As far as qualifications go, very few could match him. He’s a Harvard Law School graduate, is well-liked by politicians and peers, clerked for former Justice William Brennan, held senior positions in the Justice Department, and is very respected by other justices. SCOTUSblog’s Tom Goldstein says Garland is essentially “from central casting.”
If confirmed — a big “if” — he would be the fourth Jewish person on the nine-member Court.
So what’s the strategy here? Seems pretty straight-forward: This guy is known as a moderate. He’s white. He’s male. He’s non-controversial (for now). If Republicans can’t confirm this guy, then the other options for a Democrat President swing much more to the left, ideologically and electorally.
If you had hopes Obama would nominate a non-traditional judge, like Sri Srinivasan, Paul Watford, or Jane Kelly, there may still be reason to celebrate. You can bet Senate Republicans will drag this out as long as possible. There’s a chance they’ll eventually allow Garland to come up for a vote, only to reject him on principle and not merit.
By that time, the next President — and let’s hope it’s a Democrat since Ted Cruz would just nominate a string of Scalia clones and Donald Trump would likely choose one of his kids — has every right to put forth other candidates who don’t fit a mold we’ve seen on the Court many times before.
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