Despite a commitment from Republicans that a new Supreme Court nominee will never get a vote before the Senate, President Obama has nominated Merrick Garland to replace Justice Antonin Scalia.
The move is largely seen as a response to a comment from Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who told Newsmax: “[Obama] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man. He probably won’t do that because this appointment is about the election. So I’m pretty sure he’ll name someone the [liberal Democratic base] wants.”
Garland will be the oldest appointee to the nation’s highest court since President Nixon named Justice Lewis Powell in 1971.
Known as a relative moderate, the current Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit does stake out some very liberal stances, particularly on gun control – where his rulings paved the way to severely restrict gun ownership inside the District.
In that 2007 dissent, Garland wrote that the Second Amendment “does not prohibit all forms of registration.”
As Dave Kopel observed at the time, the “[t]he Tatel and Garland votes were no surprise, since they had earlier signaled their strong hostility to gun owner rights” in a previous case.
According to Bustle.com:
A quick look at Garland’s experience and voting records confirms his moderate standing for the most part. The esteemed judge has ruled on cases dealing with Park Services and the Americans with Disabilities Act, among other issues. In the few instances in which Garland ruled on a Parks Services case, his opinions made it clear that he values regulation when it comes to environmental impact, such as whether conservation organizations can challenge the building of power plants. His ADA rulings were primarily in favor of plaintiffs, offering little in terms of insight on whether Garland leans to the left or the right. His criminal justice record has been described as conservative, owing to rulings that favor law enforcement, however.
The National Review has called foul on the claim that Garland is a tried and true moderate justice, though. The claim is based off of Garland’s record regarding gun control in which the judge voted to pave the way for stricter gun laws in D.C. Garland’s decision marked a major turning point in restrictions that would prevent gun ownership for those seeking handguns as protective tools for self-defense.
Given the fact that Obama is looking to making sweeping changes when it comes to gun control, this point may count in Garland’s favor. It’s certainly one of the few liberal stances he’s shown in his illustrious career, pointing to the fact that Garland is primarily a moderate when his cumulative rulings and opinions are taken into consideration.
Republicans continue to stand their ground so far. Senator Mike Lee (R-TX), a member of Judiciary Committee, said the following:
“In light of the contentious presidential election already well underway, my colleagues and I on the Judiciary Committee have already given our advice and consent on this issue: we will not have any hearings or votes on President Obama’s pick. Any meeting with any nominee put forward by President Obama would only be a waste of the Senate’s time. The Court has very ably dealt with temporary absences in the past and will do so again now.”