President Obama announced Wednesday that he is nominating Merrick Garland, chief justice for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat after the death of Antonin Scalia.
Garland, 63, was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1997. Obama described the judge as “one of America’s sharpest legal minds” and praised him for his work leading the investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing.
“I have selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, evenhandedness and excellence,” Obama said. “These qualities and his long commitment to public service have earned him the respect and admiration from leaders from both sides of the aisle.”
The Associated Press described Garland as a “centrist,” noting that he has earned the title due to the fact that he is not a “down-the-line liberal” on criminal defense and national security.
However, National Review also noted that Garland has a liberal view on gun rights. In 2007, Garland voted to reconsider the ban on a law prohibited “individual handgun possession, which even prohibited guns kept in one’s own house for self-defense,” and he voted “to uphold an illegal Clinton-era regulation that created an improvised gun registration requirement.”
While there has been speculation as to whether Obama should be allowed to nominate a new Supreme Court Justice during his last year in office, he released a statement prior to the announcement, calling it his “constitutional duty to nominate a justice.”
[pull_quote_center]It is both my constitutional duty to nominate a justice and one of the most important decisions that I — or any president — will make. I’ve devoted a considerable amount of time and deliberation to this decision. I’ve consulted with legal experts and people across the political spectrum, both inside and outside government. And we’ve reached out to every member of the Senate, who each have a responsibility to do their job and take this nomination just as seriously.[/pull_quote_center]
Yahoo News noted that although GOP leaders “have vowed not to commence confirmation hearings before the November election, there might be room for the Senate to confirm a nominee in the lame-duck period between Election Day and the Jan. 20, 2017, inauguration.”