American Bar Association Endorses Garland

     WASHINGTON (CN) — Coming up on 100 days without a hearing, U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland gained an important endorsement Tuesday from the American Bar Association.
     The legal association’s standing committee on the federal judiciary today announced its unanimous opinion that Garland is “well qualified” for the high court, citing uniform praise of his integrity from lawyers and fellow judges.
     “He may be the perfect human being,” according to one comment the ABA received. Another said “you cannot find anyone with greater personal integrity or anyone more dedicated to public service.”
     Even from what is arguable the most conservative federal court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Garland received accolades.
     “I know no one — bar none — with more integrity and more commitment to truthfulness and accuracy than Judge Garland,” an anonymous Fifth Circuit judge told the ABA. “He will look to the law and to precedent before anything else.”
     Garland himself is the chief judge of the D.C. Circuit. President Barack Obama tapped the native Illinoisan shortly after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February opened up a seat on the nation’s highest court.
     Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley cited the filibuster of Alito as evidence Tuesday that the ABA’s “rating is only important to them [Democrats] when they want it to be.”
     The Iowa senator is among Republicans who have joined a pledge by Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell to stonewall any nominee Obama put forward.
     Grassley has called it inappropriate to vote on a Supreme Court nominee in an election year, though he met with Garland in April. He called the ABA’s endorsement a distraction Tuesday.
     “The decision to give Americans a voice in the direction of the Supreme Court has always been about the next generation not an ABA rating,” Grassley said in a statement. “Should the Supreme Court be a super legislature or should it decide cases based on the law and the Constitution? There’s a lot at stake, and it’s exactly why no nominee should be thrown into the political cauldron of an election year.”
     Karol Corbin Walker, who chairs the ABA federal judiciary standing committee, signed the 27-page report on Garland to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
     It says Garland “avoids deciding things that do not need to be decided” and is “not aloof from the pragmatic realities of litigation and beyond.”
     The ABA commissioned roughly 45 scholars at Seton Hall University, Stanford Law School and Harvard Law School to examine Garland’s legal opinions and law review articles. The committee invited comment about Garland from all federal appellate and district judges, magistrate judges, and a number of other state lawyers and bar representatives. It also examined Garland’s character and general legal reputation, and looked into any ethical violations of accusations against him.
     Garland is no closer to a Senate confirmation hearing, despite meetings with party leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan and cracks in the GOP obstructionist wall from moderate Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham.
     Fed-up Democrats meanwhile have had little success with calls for the Senate to “do its job.”
     “The president nominated Chief Judge Garland 97 days ago — and given that the average time from nomination to confirmation in 67 days, there is no question that the Senate has abdicated its responsibility under the U.S. Constitution,” White House Counsel Neil Eggleston said in a statement. Eggleston received a letter about the ABA’s report as well.
     Though the ABA has given “well-qualified” recommendations to all current U.S. Supreme Court justices, it has split on some past candidates.
     Robert Bork in particular underwent a contentious and ultimately unsuccessful nomination process in 1987. Against 10 on the ABA committee who rated Bork “well qualified,” four committee members had rated him “not qualified.”
     The committee also had split on President Richard Nixon’s 1969 unsuccessful nomination of Clement Haynsworth. Upon disclosures that Haynsworth had failed to disqualify himself from cases in which there were possible conflicts of interest, the committee shifted its vote in that case from unanimous to an 8-4 split in the judge’s favor.
     After Associate Justice Samuel Alito received the ABA’s unanimous mark of approval for nomination to the Supreme Court in 2006, then Sen. Obama joined with other Democrats to filibuster the nomination.
     Ranking Committee Member Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement that Garland is a Supreme Court nominee with the most federal judicial experience in history. “Senate Democrats will continue to do what is right and work for the American people,” he said. “And the American people — by a 2-1 margin — are with us.”
     Garland, who was briefly considered for Justice David Souter’s seat on the Supreme Court in 2009 before it was ultimately won by Sonya Sotomayor, is considered a moderate judge by many.
     He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College and received his law degree from Harvard as well, magna cum laude. Garland clerked for a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and later Supreme Court Associate Justice William Brennan Jr.
     Garland also worked at the law firm Arnold & Porter as a litigator and as an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, in which he prosecuted narcotics trafficking, public corruption, and government fraud cases. He was appointed to the D.C. Circuit in 1997.

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