5 facts about Merrick Garland, Supreme Court nominee

The eyes of the Beltway focused on Merrick Garland on Wednesday after President Obama nominated Garland, the chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, as late Justice Antonin Scalia’s successor.

“I’ve 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 during an announcement in the White House Rose Garden.

For those getting up to speed on Garland’s reputation, past and implications for the makeup of the Supreme Court, here are five facts about him.

Was confirmed by seven sitting GOP senators in 1997

In 1997, Chief Judge Garland was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, 76-23, with the majority support of both major parties. This included the support of seven current GOP senators: Dan Coats (Indiana), Thad Cochran (Mississippi), Susan Collins (Maine), Orrin Hatch (Utah), James Inhofe (Oklahoma), John McCain (Arizona) and Pat Roberts (Kansas).

For 19 years, Garland has served on that court, which is considered among the most important appellate courts in the United States. He has been chief judge of the D.C. Circuit for more than three years.

Would be the oldest justice to get confirmed in 40 years

Garland was born in Illinois on Nov. 13, 1952. At 63, his confirmation would make him the oldest justice to join the Supreme Court in 44 years. Justice Lewis Powell was 64 when he joined the court in 1972. Powell retired in 1987 and died in 1998 at the age of 90.


Judge Merrick Garland, center, after President Obama announced his nomination to the Supreme Court in the White House Rose Garden, March 16, 2016. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Would make five of nine sitting justices Harvard Law grads

If he is appointed, Garland would give the court five graduates of Harvard Law School: John G. Roberts, Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg attended Harvard Law but transferred to Columbia Law School, where she graduated. Three justices are Yale Law School alums: Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Would make the court 5 Catholics, 4 Jews

When it comes to religion, Garland’s appointment would give the court four Jewish justices: The others are Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan. The five remaining justices are Catholic: Thomas, Sotomayor, Alito, Kennedy and Roberts.

Would make three former prosecutors on the court

Garland, a former deputy assistant U.S. attorney general during President Clinton’s first term, would be the third sitting justice with prosecutorial experience — joining Sotomayor and Alito. Garland supervised the Oklahoma City bombing and Unabomber cases. When he was a potential nominee in 2010, SCOTUSBlog, a popular law blog written by lawyers and law students, reviewed his then 13 years as a D.C. circuit judge in criminal cases. “Judge Garland rarely votes in favor of criminal defendants’ appeals of their convictions,” the blog reported.

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(Cover tile photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)