President Barack Obama nominates Judge Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court

March 17, 2016

The Opinion Pages | Editorial

President Barack Obama nominates Judge Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court

by The Editorial Board

If you tried to create the ideal moderate Supreme Court nominee in a laboratory, it would be hard to do better than Judge Merrick Garland.

In nominating Judge Garland to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last month, President Obama has taken his constitutional duty seriously, choosing a deeply respected federal appellate judge with an outstanding intellect, an impeccable legal record, and the personal admiration of Republicans and Democrats.

And yet, within minutes of Mr. Obama’s announcement in the Rose Garden on Wednesday morning, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, was again outrageously claiming that Mr. Obama made his pick “not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election.”

He again vowed not to hold hearings until after Mr. Obama leaves office. But there is no reason to believe that Mr. McConnell and his party will hold hearings at all. What they have claimed is blanket authority to veto any nominee before hearings or a vote takes place. This is a dangerous new role for the Senate, one that could turn the court into nothing more than a group of black-robed politicians.

Under normal, even routinely partisan, circumstances, Judge Garland would sail through confirmation hearings and be confirmed by the Senate in a matter of months, if not weeks. That was obvious to Senator Orrin Hatch, the senior Republican from Utah who sits on the Judiciary Committee, who in 2010 called Mr. Garland a “consensus nominee” and said there would be “no question” that he would be confirmed to the Supreme Court with bipartisan support.

Just last week, Mr. Hatch repeated his praise, saying that if Mr. Obama wanted a real moderate, he “could easily” name Mr. Garland, but predicted that “he probably won’t do that because this appointment is about the election.”

But we are no longer operating in the realm of sense or normality. The Republican Party is staring down the very strong possibility that Donald Trump will be the party’s presidential candidate. And now, its leaders, in a stupendous show of political malfeasance, are putting the Supreme Court’s constitutional duties on hold while they make dishonest claims about “letting the people’s voice be heard.”

There is some irony to the Republican rejection of Judge Garland, a 63-year-old white man, who might be considered too moderate for Democrats hoping that the next justice would have a more liberal legal record. It is a choice that does not bring more diversity the court.

In his 19 years on the bench, Judge Garland has established a solidly centrist voting record that reflects no strong political ideology. He has sided with the government in cases involving habeas corpus petitions from detainees at Guantánamo Bay, and has voted against criminal defendants more often than his liberal colleagues have. He has generally voted in favor of deferring to the considered decisions of federal agencies. In civil rights cases, he has voted in favor of plaintiffs who have claimed rights violations.

None of this matters to Senate Republicans, who have pledged that there will be no hearings, no vote — and with a few exceptions, not even the courtesy of a meeting with Judge Garland. They have said that if he were to appear before the Senate, he would be treated like a “piñata.”

This intransigence is unlikely to win votes for the party in November. Americans strongly oppose the Republican blockade, which is unprecedented in the nation’s history. As Mr. Obama said Wednesday, “I simply ask Republicans in the Senate to give him a fair hearing, and then an up-or-down vote.” If they do not, he said, the process of nominating Supreme Court justices — one of the most important jobs of any president — will be “beyond repair.”

Mr. Obama has picked a strong nominee, who won bipartisan support in his confirmation to the appeals court. If the Republicans refuse to accept him, they will face one of two scenarios: a nominee selected by Hillary Clinton, who may well be more liberal, or one chosen by President Donald Trump — a racist, vulgar demagogue who many Republicans have said is unfit to run the country.

6 thoughts on “President Barack Obama nominates Judge Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court

  1. Divided and polarised politics in America will prevent a fair hearing for Obama’s nominee. It can’t be right ,says Obama. Can we in Malaysia learn from Judge Merrick Garland’s acceptance speech and his life as a man of the law? His advice is follow the law, not make the Law. Your reaction, Ambassador John Malott. It is time we hear your views on Obama’s exercise of his constitutional duty.–Din Merican

  2. Well, that is the land of law to read but not to make laws is Obama’s advise to the newly elected Supreme Court Judge. In our country from the top to the bottom plus the so called law makers whom we elect interpret laws and the constitution to their whims and fancies

    I just cannot understand the opinion of our lower court and high court decisions in Malaysian Courts when their cases are taken to Appeal Court and Federal Court where almost all said cases and their decisions turn out to be the opposite.

    Does it mean that the judges at lower courts are not interpreting the law to its correctness or are they under qualified as judges so the higher courts correct them to over rule their decisions? Many landmark cases that we read had been criticized by the citizens because of an element of suspicion in higher courts’ verdicts.

    Law makers like Azlina who interpreted as subjunctive to speak in the Parliament referring to RM2.6 million loot because the Bar Council has taken Apandi’s decision to the court to review. Even the speaker on many occasions interpreted the rules favoring Barisan by blinding the laws of the constitution. EC interprets the laws to add flavor to government needs. Shafie, the layer playing hero to the needs of UMNO in ‘tearing’ cases apart at appeal and Federal courts.

    It’s most unfortunate to lose those most dignified judges of Tunku’s era who made our country proud in their pronouncements of verdicts, be it criminal or civil cases and retired gracefully without looking for any favors like contracts and other concessionaires in the GLC’s. Today the CJ and other judges soon after retiring, Government of the day is taking good care of them by offering lucrative jobs and contracts for their ‘services’ as judges to Barisan Government.

  3. Merrick Garland is an excellent choice. I watched both Obama and Garland speak yesterday when Obama made his announcement.

    Obama is right to move ahead and nominate someone. That is his Constitutional duty. Unfortunately, the Republicans are so used to saying “no” and obstructing the Government, so they are refusing to do their Constitutional duty, which is to hold hearings and then vote yes or no.

    American conservatives say that they believe in a strict, literal reading of our Constitution, just as the Founding Fathers wrote it. But nowhere in the Constitution does it say, “Notice: These provisions are suspended in election years, or whenever I choose to ignore them.”

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders say that because this is an election year, the people should have a voice in the selection of a Supreme Court nominee. But elections choose Presidents, Congressmen, Senators, Governors, and so on. We do not choose our Supreme Court judges through elections.

    Under our Constitution, that is the job of the Senators. They are supposed to be the voice and representative of the people. So they should just “get on with it” and do their job, and stop being obstructionist.
    Thanks, Ambassador Malott,

    Listened to both the President and Judge Merrick Garland. The latter was moved to tears thinking that only in America a man of humble beginnings can reach the pinnacle of his profession. He was also aware of the weight of responsibility on his shoulders if his nomination as Supreme Court Judge was accepted by the Senate.–Din Merican

  4. Supreme Court judges are appointed until they are dead.
    And they are playing God.
    One half or so agrees to abortion n the other half are liberals.
    They are silent on so many critical issues.
    They are the supreme judges. They cant even interprete or tell the senate or congress if the appointment a d selection of the new guy must go on.

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