Barack Obama has announced his nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy in the Supreme Court after the passing of Justice Scalia.
Garland is cuurently the Chief Justice on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, where he has been on the bench since 1997. He was nominated to serve on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals by Bill Clinton at the end of his first term. Garland was not confirmed until after Bill Clinton won a second term and was able to push him through the Senate.
Garland will be one of the oldest Justices to be confirmed in recent years. He is 63-years-old. Nominees to the Supreme Court tend to be in their fifties. Garland is two years older than Justice Roberts who has been on SCOTUS for ten years.
Garland is a fairly moderate judge. This nomination takes into consideration the dificulty of getting a more liberal judge confirmed by the Senate. Despite being considered moderate Garland still clerked under Brennan and was nominated to his current position by Bill Clinton.
He has decisions that may be considered liberal but are actually in favor of limiting Government power. In 2008, he ruled that suspects could not be held as enemy combatants without verifiable evidence. In 2013, he wrote the appeals court's decision ordering the CIA to release information about drone strikes to a federal judge, in a challenge brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.
One area that makes him a less than ideal pick for liberals is criminal law. He consistantly tends to side with law enforcement over the rights of defendant. Interestingly this is the one area where Scalia would often join the Liberal Justices and favor Defendant's rights over law enforcement.
The controversy I forsee will be Garlan's stance on gun control. Garland is extremely liberal on gun control issues. He petitioned to rehear DC v. Heller after Scalia wrote an opinion invalidating DC's gun control law. This nomination would give the Garlan the opportunity to reverse one of the most important decision written by the Justice he is replacing.
Conservative groups have already vowed to spend millions of dollars to block the confirmation of Garlan because of his radical stance on gun control.
The chances of Garlan being confirmed by the Senate are slim but it is not impossible given his credentials and somewhat moderate decisions on issues other than gun control while on the bench. Garlan was able to get confirmed by Republicans in the Senate when Bill Clinton nominated him to the Circuit Court.
Garlan was most likely not a first pick for Obama, which is why he nominated him. Obama knows that any nomination made at this time is unlikely to be confirmed by the Senate so he would not want to nominate a judge that would have a better shot after the elections. As the New York Times noted, "In choosing Judge Garland, a well-known moderate who has drawn bipartisan support over decades, Mr. Obama was essentially daring Republicans to press their election-year confirmation fight over a judge many of them have publicly praised and who would be difficult for them to reject, particularly if a Democrat were to win the November presidential election and they faced the prospect of a more liberal nominee in 2017."
It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.