Supreme Court Nominations

Merrick Garland gets ABA's 'well-qualified' rating; ABA president calls for Senate action

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Merrick Garland

Judge Merrick Garland.

Updated: U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland has received a well-qualified rating by the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.

The committee concluded that Garland is “a pre-eminent member of the legal profession with outstanding legal ability and exceptional breadth of experience,” according to an ABA press release.

In a statement released after the rating, ABA President Paulette Brown called for Senate action. “It is now imperative that the Senate fulfills its constitutional responsibilities to consider and act promptly on the Supreme Court nominee,” she said in a statement.

The Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary interviewed hundreds of people in the legal profession and community who knew Garland, and “not one person uttered a negative word about him,” according to an explanatory statement (PDF) by committee chair Karol Corbin Walker.

Representative comments included:

• “Garland’s integrity is off the scales.”

• “Garland is the best that there is. He is the finest judge I have ever met. There is no one who is his peer.”

• “Judge Garland has no weaknesses.”

• “I do not know a finer person than Judge Garland. He is very solid, has the utmost integrity, and is a totally scrupulous, kind and generous person. It is hard to find a nicer person.”

• “He may be the perfect human being.”

There was also unanimous consensus among those interviewed that Garland “is superbly competent” to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, the statement said. He has “broad-based experience as a litigator, prosecutor, government lawyer and appellate court judge.”

People who commented on Garland’s competence said he was thorough, hard-working, intelligent, open-minded, collegial, well-prepared and gracious. “Judge Garland is obviously brilliant but lacks arrogance and that is refreshing,” said one person who was interviewed.

Three groups that reviewed Garland’s opinions and legal scholarship all agreed that his work is “extraordinary,” according to the statement. Reviewers said he was “highly knowledgeable across an enormous range of law.” His analytical approach begins with textual analysis, and also looks to legislative history and the intent of the Framers, if that is helpful. He also considers existing precedent.

One reviewer said Garland’s opinions are “not unduly long” yet they are “exceedingly thorough.” His writing style, one reviewer said, “is simple, direct, and avoids unnecessary prolixity.”

Garland has participated in many civic and public activities, including tutoring elementary school students in reading and math.

Brown’s statement noted that one of the goals of the American Bar Association is to advance the rule of law. “To be fully effective and to ensure the highest level of access to justice,” Brown said, “the Supreme Court needs a full complement of nine justices. While the court continues to function, its 4-4 decisions do not establish precedent and leave open questions on issues that are vital to the lives of everyday people. The prospect of a deadlock also will result in more cases being returned unresolved to lower courts. Cases with controversial issues that need a decision will more likely be avoided by the court. The confirmation process must therefore continue to proceed with all deliberate speed.”

Updated at 1:30 p.m. to include statement by ABA President Paulette Brown.

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