President-Elect Joe Biden to Name Judge Merrick Garland As His Attorney General

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

By Roxanna Jarvis

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President-elect Joe Biden is expected to choose Judge Merrick Garland—the federal appeals court judge whose U.S. Supreme Court nomination in 2016 was blocked by the GOP—as his choice for his Attorney General, said two anonymous sources familiar with the selection procedure Wednesday.

One of the sources said that Biden sees Garland as being an attorney general who will be respected by nonpartisan staff because of his history as both a federal prosecutor and “high-level supervisor” inside the Justice Department. To Biden, Garland has the ability to return integrity to the agency.

If confirmed by the Senate, which is almost guaranteed given Tuesday’s Georgia run-off election results that gave the Democrats the votes, Garland would have a huge responsibility in restoring integrity and public confidence as Attorney General and head of the Department of Justice (DOJ), said observers.

Organizations like Fair and Just Prosecution see this as a “welcome development”  after the four years of damage created by the Trump administration and an “increasingly politicized Department of Justice that abandoned the agency’s North star and mission to seek justice and fairness for all Americans.”

The use of the justice department institution to aid Trump’s allies, hurt his adversaries, and attack the FBI and federal prosecutors has put the respect of the AG into question.

Garland gained national attention in 2016 when former President Obama nominated him to fill the Supreme Court vacancy following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Despite the widespread belief that Judge Garland would receive bipartisan support, Senate Republicans blocked Garland’s confirmation hearing for eight months, waiting for Trump to transition into the executive office and pick a more conservative judge.

Not long after, Garland’s name was suggested by Republican Senator Mike Lee to replace James Comey as FBI Director. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who blocked Garland from the Supreme Court, even vouched for Garland.

“I think it would make it clear that President Trump will continue the tradition at the FBI of having an apolitical professional,” McConnell told Bloomberg News.

Ultimately, Garland declined being recruited for the position.

Before joining the federal appeals court in 1997, Garland worked in a variety of different jobs. He privately practiced, was a federal prosecutor, served as a senior official within the DOJ’s criminal division, and even was the DOJ’s principal associate deputy attorney general.

Garland has recalled his part in helping manage the federal response to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing as the “most important thing I have done.”

The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, committed by Timothy McVeigh, killed 168 people, including 19 children. Garland, 42 years old at the time, was a senior Justice Department official and was sent to Oklahoma City. Garland led the prosecution for a month until a permanent prosecutor was named to lead the case.

In the years after being nominated for a seat on the Supreme Court, Garland has devoted his time to improving his workplace and the court itself, shaping a more equitable process for law students to be considered for competitive jobs, creating policy regarding court cybersecurity, and leading the initiative to improve the federal court system’s process for reporting sexual harassment and misconduct.

Garland was named chair of the executive committee of the Judicial Conference, which is a committee tasked with overseeing the federal judiciary’s policy and ethics.

Garland is a well-respected federal appeals judge, with many colleagues who vouch for him.

“He’s a wonderful, easy colleague to work with. It was that way before the nomination, and it’s been that way ever since,” said Judge David Tatel, Garland’s colleague on the appeals court, to the Associated Press in an interview.

“The bottom line is that [he] is one of the finest federal judges in the country…and he also happens to be a wonderfully decent human being,” he added.

In addition to the positive changes in his workplace, Garland also tutors students at J.O. Wilson Elementary School in D.C. and has done so for the past 20 years. Garland has continued to tutor children remotely during the pandemic.

Along with Garland as Attorney General, it is said that Biden has tapped Lisa Monaco, former homeland security adviser, as deputy attorney general, and former Justice Department civil rights chief Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general.

In addition, Biden has picked Kristen Clarke, the president of the advocacy group Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, as an assistant attorney general for civil rights.

As Attorney General, there is hope that Garland will use his position to address the ongoing issues of racial injustice in the country and work toward implementing vast criminal justice reform.

Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky put out a statement, noting, “We hope that Judge Garland will work to end mass incarceration and that his appointment will usher in an era of a more equitable, compassionate, and evidence-based approach to our federal criminal legal system,” wrote Krinsky.

The policies championed by the new wave of progressive prosecutors give hope to many that Garland will look to their efforts and join them in enforcing police accountability, addressing systemic racism, stopping the prosecution of kids as adults, and stopping excessive punishment, among other things.

To Krinsky, the Black Lives Matter movement and the “pleas from millions” to address the racial injustices in the system place a “mandate” on the Biden-Harris administration to implement sweeping and continuing reform.

“Judge Garland can lead the way towards this new vision of justice,” Krinsky said.

Roxanna Jarvis is a fourth-year student at UC Berkeley, currently majoring in Political Science with a minor in Public Policy. She is from Sacramento, California.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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