Judge Merrick Garland is Biden's pick for attorney general; rule of law ‘is not just some lawyer’s turn of phrase’
Judge Merrick Garland. Photo from the White House.
Updated: President-elect Joe Biden has picked Judge Merrick Garland to be the next U.S. attorney general.
Garland is a 68-year-old judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit with previous Department of Justice experience.
“I have loved being a judge,” Garland said, “But to serve as attorney general at this critical time—to lead the more than 113,000 dedicated men and women who work in this department to ensure the rule of law—is a calling I am honored and eager to answer.”
Garland vowed to reaffirm principles of independence and integrity at the DOJ.
“The rule of law is not just some lawyer’s turn of phrase,” he said. “It is the very foundation of our democracy.”
Several publications had reported Wednesday that Biden intended to nominate Garland. They included Politico, the Associated Press, the Washington Post and the New York Times. The reports were based on anonymous sources.
President Barack Obama had nominated Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court in March 2016, but the bid failed when the Republican-controlled Senate refused to have a hearing on the nomination. Garland received a well-qualified rating for the position by the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.
Garland is a former DOJ official who oversaw prosecutions in the Oklahoma City bombing and the Unabomber case. He was nominated to the D.C. appeals court by President Bill Clinton in 1997.
“To many legal observers,” the Washington Post reports, Garland “seems an ideal candidate to restore the Justice Department’s independence and credibility which was eroded under President Trump. He enjoys a reputation as a unifying, moderating force on the appeals court, and has previous experience in the Justice Department.”
A Washington Post op-ed says Garland is known for his “astonishing integrity,” his “core decency,” and his “passionate dedication to a very old-fashioned and now desperately needed sense of public service.”
Some think, however, that Garland is too moderate for the position because he is deferential to police and prosecutors in his rulings.
The New York Times points out that Garland “will face vexing decisions” about whether to investigate President Donald Trump and how to handle a tax investigation of Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.
The Washington Post op-ed notes that many Republicans have praised Garland, making him “the ideal person to untangle the mess that Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr will leave behind.”
Others said to have been in the running for attorney general were former Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.
Biden also announced other people he has picked for DOJ positions. They are:
• Lisa Monaco for deputy attorney general. She is a partner at O’Melveny & Myers and a former assistant attorney general for national security.
• Vanita Gupta for associate attorney general. Gupta led the DOJ’s civil rights division during the Obama Administration. She is currently president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
• Kristen Clarke for assistant attorney general for the the civil rights division. Clarke is president and executive director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.