US Attorney General Merrick Garland has survived a long-running nomination process to become the US government’s lead lawyer, but the distinguished career of Merrick Garland also provides some little known facts about the country’s top lawyer.
Recently appointed US Attorney General Merrick Garland, succeeding US Attorney General William Barr, inherits a Justice Department embattled by a turbulent era under Trump, who insisted that the attorney general must be loyal to him personally, a position that battered the department’s reputation. But with Merrick Garland there is an Attorney General with more experience than others (see point 6, below).
Garland was appointed US Attorney General in March with a strong bipartisan vote in his favor after spending the past two decades as a federal appellate judge in Washington DC. He has now changed the judge’s chambers for the Department of Justice head office.
A moderate jurist and ‘centrist’ by nature, Garland has had an extensive background in private practice and public law roles.
Known for his ability to listen and to marshall the facts before expressing an opinion of his own, he is sometime mistaken for being shy and unforthcoming, but is unquestionably smart and meticulous.
The US Attorney General job description is to lead the Department of Justice and to represent the United States in legal matters, providing the lead legal advice to the President and Cabinet as well as appearing before the Supreme Court on important matters involving the country and the federal government.
So who is US Attorney General Merrick Garland?
Raised in a conservative Jewish family in Chicago where his father ran a small advertising business working out of the family house’s basement, he has gone on to develop a stellar legal career mixing both private practice and public law roles, displaying both his intellectual talents as well as an astute sense of operating in the legal profession itself.
Here are 18 Things You may not have known about the new, US Attorney General
1. His Family Name Was Changed
He was raised in a conservative Jewish family in Chicago, , the family name having been changed from Garfinkel several generations prior his Russian family having fled from anti-Semitic progroms in the early 20th century
2. He Had Medical Aspirations
After winning prizes for his scholarship he attended Harvard studying social studies and initially wished to qualify as a doctor before changing his mind to law. He saw both professions as ‘helping’ professions.
3. He Was a Student Leader – With Limits
Merrick Garland was a student leader from Chicago and stood up for free speech in his work as a student leader but as a moderate he also shunned protesting against the VIetnam war.
4. Summer Speechwriter
During his college summers Garland volunteered as a speechwriter to Congressman Abner J. Mikva. Mikva relied upon Garland to provide details on the recruitment of summer clerks following Mikva’s elevation by Jimmy Carter to the DC Circuit. He also wrote theater reviews and articles for Harvard’s daily student newspaper ‘Harvard Crimson’.
5. He Has a Resume To ‘Cry For’
A major academic record at both High School and Harvard, Merrick Garland has a major intellect and capacity for work, which has resulted in his clerkships with legal luminaries over the years, as well as a stellar legal career. But he has also developed a unique knack of using his intellectual powers to find a central ground. Other judges, law school classmates and friends have described his ability to deliver solutions, identifying areas of agreement and finding solutions. He has had what Benjamin R. Civiletti, attorney general to President Jimmy Carterand described as a “resume to cry for.”
6. Unsurpassed Judicial Experience
Garland had more federal judicial experience than any other Supreme Court nominee in history and was the oldest Supreme Court nominee since Lewis F. Powell, Jr. in 1971.
7. He Faced Criticism By Some For Lack of Intellectual Leadership
He has been criticized by some for not displaying enough leadership on key issues. “He’s not an intellectual leader of the left or the right,” said Tom Goldstein, an appellate lawyer and the founder of SCOTUSblog, a website that writes on Supreme Court news. “The people out there cheering for the Garland nomination are the professional legal class in Washington, D.C.,” Goldstein said. “What you don’t see are the progressive, committed liberals saying, ‘Here’s our guy, let’s march into battle for him.’ ”
8. He Faced Unprecedented Opposition to Appointment
Despite his obvious abilities and experience to fulfil the role, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s Republican majority refused to consider Garland’s nomination as US Attorney General, holding “no hearings, no votes, no action whatsoever” on the nomination. McConnell’s categorical refusal to hold hearings on Garland’s nomination was described by political scientists and legal scholars as unprecedented, McConnell’s choice to lead a Republican blockade of the nomination was described as a “culmination of [his] confrontational style,” and an example of constitutional hardball.
9. He Has The Record For The Longest Confirmation Hearing Time
After a period of 293 days, Garland’s nomination expired on January 3, 2017, at the end of the 114th Congress. It was the longest confirmation delay of a Supreme Court nominee in history, far exceeding the 125-day delay faced by the ultimately confirmed Justice Louis Brandeis in 1916
10. He Calls Himself the ‘Accidental Judge’
Making a canny decision to work first as a federal prosecutor rather than working in the more lucractive practice practice arena, Attorney General Garland achieved trial experience as a prosecutor and referred to himself as an “accidental judge” because he was offered a judicial role while in line for taking up a major Justice Department job.
11. And He’s Known By Some as ‘Mr Nice’
Merrick Garland has thrived professionally in part because he is simply nice. Profiles pieces have referred to him in terms of his ‘sweetness’ and decency, despite his reputation as a tough, legal advocate.
12. He Was Instrumental In Dealing With Harassment of Justice Employees
He was involved in the formulation of new rules to protect federal judicial branch employees from workplace harassment, which were adopted in the wake of multiple sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Alex Kozinski.
13. He Has Domestic Threat Experience
His experience working in the area of terrorism and national security has given him a unique advantage for the current role in the wake of the January ‘insurrection’ in Washington DC. Garland and the Justice Department are to play a critical role in both efforts, as they will be responsible for investigating and prosecuting possible domestic terrorists nationwide, while balancing concerns about civil liberties and free speech rights.
14. He Played a Role In The Prosecution Following The Oklahoma City Bombing
Garland said prior to his nomination as US Attorney Genral that the most important cases he worked on included the prosecution of Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, who carried out 16 mail bombings over 17 years, killing three and injuring scores more, and that of McVeigh, a former Army sergeant who came to hate the U.S. government and identify with far-right militia types.
Garland, then a top Justice Department official, was encouraging prosecutors to speed the trial along and jettison superfluous findings in their case against Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted of carrying out the 1995 attack and executed in 2001, said Joe Hartzler, the team’s lead attorney. Hartzler said he found the advice so compelling that he wrote the words on a sheet of paper and hung it on an office wall as a rallying cry for his team.
15. He Holds Strong Views on National Security Cases
Garland holds strong views on the protection of national security and has been involved in some notable cases involving the issue. He wrote for the unanimous panel when it rejected Guantanamo detainee Moath Hamza Ahmed al Alawi‘s (pictured, left) petition for habeas corpus. In 2008 in Parhat v. Gates he wrote for a panel that unanimously overturned the Combatant Status Review Tribunal‘s determination that a captured Uyghur was an enemy combatant. In Saleh v. Titan Corp. (2009), Garland dissented from the court’s holding that former Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison could not sue private military contractors who participated in torture and prisoner abuse. He wrote that the suit should be allowed to proceed because “no act of Congress and no judicial precedent” immunized the contractors from tort liability.
16. He Rarely Dissents
Garland has a reputation for collegiality and his opinions rarely draw a dissent. As of 2016, Garland had written just fifteen dissents in his two decades on the court, fewer than his colleague Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who wrote some 17 dissents over the previous decade.
17. He Is Partially Color Blind
He is partially color blind and evidently uses a ‘list’ to match his suit and ties.
18. His Net Worth
He is reputed to be worth between $6 million and $23 million, according to a New York Times article from 2016. His salary as US Attorney General ranks as an Level 1 position in the US Executive Schedule and is $221,400 presently.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland is clearly an outstanding lawyer on numerous fronts and the challenges faced following the Capital riot among others, promise to test his abilities and experience.
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