President Barack Obama will nominate Merrick B. Garland as the newest Supreme Court justice, White House officials said on Wednesday. Garland, a centrist appeals court judge, will be the fourth Jewish justice on the nine-person bench if his appointment is confirmed.
In an email sent to his supporters on Wednesday morning, Obama announced that he had chosen a nominee with “an independent mind, unimpeachable credentials, and an unquestionable mastery of law”; recognition of “the limits of the judiciary’s role”; and awareness “that justice is not about abstract legal theory”.
Garland, 63, is the chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Known for being moderate and centrist, he is widely respected in Washington by Republicans and Democrats alike, strengthening his chances of being approved by a Republican-dominated Senate which has vowed to battle Obama’s choice whomever it may be.
After the death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia last month, which left a gap on the bench of the highest court in the land, GOP lawmakers – and presidential nominees – immediately called for Obama to leave the choice of the next Supreme Court justice to his successor, fearful that the Democratic president would attempt to install a liberal, left-wing judge.
However, Obama quickly announced he would fulfill his “constitutional duty to nominate a justice” before the end of his term.
Garland, who was also a finalist for the previous two Supreme Court vacancies that Obama filled, is considered eminently suitable for the job. He enjoys widespread respect and support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. In 1997, 32 Republican senators supported his confirmation at the DC Circuit.
Senator Orrin G. Hatch, a Republican lawmaker from Utah, is reported to have told Obama during the last round of Supreme Court appointments that Garland was “a consensus nominee” who would be sure to win a Senate confirmation.