Merrick Garland is about to enter the final and most influential phase of his decades-long legal career.
Garland is a longtime judge appointed to head the Department of Justice by President Joe Biden. He will be tasked with running an abused agency and dealing with numerous legal challenges across the country, should he be approved.
“Joining the Justice Department will be a kind of homecoming for me,” Garland said when announcing his nomination, which came just a day after a violent uprising in the Capitol that disrupted the confirmation of Biden’s electoral college victory.
“My very first job after being a court clerk was to work as the special assistant to then Attorney General Ben Civiletti,” continued Garland, considering his career closing.
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Eliminating racial inequalities in the judicial system, combating domestic extremism, and restoring the independence of federal law enforcement agencies are all top priorities Biden has set for the ministry over the coming years.
Tasked with executing this vision, Garland will play an important role in litigation and reform efforts across the country, including some high-profile investigations that will politically embroil the White House. Here’s what you should know about Biden’s attorney general.
Beginnings in the DOJ
Garland, a native of Chicago, who attended Harvard University for both undergraduate and law degrees, worked as a clerk at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and then with the famous Liberal Supreme Court Justice, William Brennan. Garland was then special assistant to Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti from 1979 to 1981 during the tenure of former Prize President Jimmy Carter.
He then practiced corporate disputes at the law firm Arnold & Porter, where he eventually became a partner in 1985. He did not stay away from the public sector for long, however, and left the private practice to join the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia in 1989, he prosecuted cases of public corruption and drug trafficking.
In 1993, Garland was appointed assistant assistant attorney general in the DOJ’s Criminal Investigation Department under the Clinton administration. The next year, Garland was appointed assistant attorney general, a role with far-reaching powers that included tracking domestic terrorist threats like the Oklahoma City and Atlanta Olympics bombings.
DC Circuit Judgeship
Garland’s time at the Justice Department earned him praise in Washington. President Bill Clinton nominated him in 1995 for a position on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, the country’s second largest court.
A controversy erupted over whether the DC Circuit seat should be filled at all, and the Senate Republicans turned down Garland’s nomination on technical grounds. Clinton later named Garland to court in 1997 by 76-23 votes, which included the support of 32 Republicans.
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Garland’s tenure at the bank was one of consensus and moderation. In his more than 20 years at court, where he eventually presided as chief judge, Garland has received praise from both liberals and conservatives.
For example, the judge relied on criminal cases while earning a reputation for assisting outsiders, as in cases addressing racial prejudice in the workplace and prisoners alleging illegal detention or ill-treatment.
Supreme Court nomination and controversy
In early 2016, following the death of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, President Barrack Obama nominated Garland to replace the Conservative Supreme Court icon.
“Throughout his career, Judge Garland has demonstrated a rare ability to bring people together and has earned the respect of everyone he has worked with,” the White House said at the time.
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It was widely viewed as a centrist compromise by the former president who needed the support of Senate Republicans to validate Garland in the Supreme Court. However, then-Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell declined to give Garland a hearing, seeing political commitment to replace one of the most revered Conservatives to sit in court with a left-wing lawyer.
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Citing Garland’s election year nomination, McConnell and then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote in a statement: “The American people should take this opportunity to weigh who they trust to get the closest person to nominate. ” for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. “
The move enraged liberals and lively conservatives; The vacant Supreme Court seat heightened tension during the already difficult 2016 elections. Garland’s nomination was dropped following President Donald Trump’s victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Garland continued to serve as the chief judge on the DC Circuit until Biden named him the best law enforcement officer in the country. It was clear to Biden that the judge’s mandate would be to renew the agency’s commitment to civil rights and combating domestic extremism.
“”[The DOJ] was founded in 1870 to enforce the civil rights changes that resulted from the civil war. The 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, “remarked Biden in his speech.” Stand up to the clan, stand up to racism, tackle domestic terrorism. This original spirit must guide and revitalize its work again. “
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Garland expressed his urgency during the announcement, which came just the day after a violent mob raided the United States Capitol complex. Efforts to fight domestic terrorists like the Ku Klux Klan “are now reflected in the priorities that lie ahead,” he said.
“From ensuring racial justice in our judicial system to dealing with the evolving threat of violent extremism. If this is confirmed, these are the principles I will address as Attorney General,” Garland continued.
The attorney general candidate faces a number of challenges, including increased calls for police reform after a historic summer of protests against racial justice in 2020. To deliver on that promise, Garland is likely to strengthen the ministry’s civil rights office, which is part of the the law was downsized by the Trump Administration.
Some Capitol rioters have already been prosecuted under laws aimed at indicting Klan members. How Garland addresses the growing threats of extremism, particularly from right-wing and white nationalist groups, will have a significant impact on civil rights and national security.
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Garland is also urged to reaffirm the Justice Department’s independence amid calls to prosecute former President Donald Trump for various violations. Garland will also oversee an ongoing investigation into Biden’s son Hunter’s international financial affairs.
Garland will raise these and other questions during his Senate confirmation hearings on February 22nd and 23rd. Quoting Vice President Kamala Harris at the announcement, Garland said, “Any decision by the Justice Department should be based on facts, should be based on facts on the law. It shouldn’t be based on the political period.
“I would not have agreed to be considered as attorney general on any other condition. Thank you both for giving me the opportunity to serve,” he concluded.