After months of tension, Obama has finally nominated a Supreme Court judge, but is Merrick B. Garland too liberal or too conservative to fill the slot?
The question is especially pertinent after a large portion of Republican lawmakers have come forward saying they will refuse to vote in any Supreme Court replacement that Obama presents to them. Barack likely chose Merrick with this pre-existing opposition in mind, and now those hoping the current president would have a chance to nominate his term’s third pick are hoping Judge Garland can convince even the most conservative of the GOP.
In fact, when Merrick was proposed for the D.C. Circuit court in 2010, the Washington Post ran an article about the backlash the judge faced not from Republicans, but from progressive Democrats. Among the most controversial of Garland’s rulings were his defenses of George W. Bush’s Guantanamo Bay policies — many of which were derided by human rights groups.
For instance, in 2013 Merrick blocked the cases of two Kuwaiti detainees at Guantanamo Bay who questioned their imprisonment due to a lack of evidence. American University law professor Herman Schwartz told the Post that Garland’s decision was contrary to the rule of law since it essentially allowed the Bush administration to create rules to excuse their actions.
“It meant that nothing that happened to those prisoners — whether it was abusing them or holding them indefinitely — would ever be subject to the rule of law. For the executive branch to have that kind of power over a person is unconscionable. And for a judge to accept the total irrelevance of the rule of law is a betrayal of that judge’s obligation to uphold the Constitution and this nation’s ideals.”
Still, other details in his record indicate that Merrick is quite centrist, even, on other occasions, in the instance of Guantanamo Bay. The evidence against Huzaifa Parhat, a Chinese Uighurs Muslim, was torn apart as “suggesting that whatever the government says must be treated as true” by Garland and his fellow judges in 2008. Merrick himself went on to compare the logic of the Bush administration in this instance to Alice in Wonderland, reported Anti War.
“Parhat has made a credible argument that – at least for some of the assertions – the common source is the Chinese government, which may be less than objective with respect to the Uighurs… Lewis Carroll notwithstanding, the fact the government has ‘said it thrice’ does not make an allegation true.”
Additionally working as a count against him for some liberals, Merrick happens to be a 63-year-old white man in an administration that has nominated two women from racial minorities. Guantanamo Bay aside, Garland isn’t necessarily a judge that will read as particularly inclusionary. Even on the religious front, Garland is Jewish, joining Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Elana Kagan, and Stephen Breyer to become the fourth on the panel.
Yet based on the reaction of many right-wing news sources upon the Merrick announcement, it seems his confirmation might not be that simple. While Garland has made some rulings that clash with progressive values over the years, he has also been a less-than-staunch defender of gun rights. Conservative media seemed to highlight this as his major flaw.
“Garland will be the 5th vote to overturn the Second Amendment #SupremeCourt“
The two major cases being touted by pro-gun critics of Garland are Parker v. D.C. and NRA v. Reno. In the latter, some accuse the judge of ignoring the Brady Act, which dictates that all firearm criminal background checks must be destroyed. The Supreme Court justice nominee sided with the attorney general at the time and said the government may keep such files under programs put in place to prevent fraud and other crimes. In Parker, he voted to re-hear a case on whether or not the Second Amendment protected Washington, D.C., residents from a handgun ban, reported Slate.
What do you think, is Judge Merrick Garland liberal or conservative for Supreme Court justice standards?
[Image via Rick Bowmer/AP Images]