Federal Courts and Nominations

Why Judge Garland Deserves a Hearing

Well, that was quick. About a week ago, Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) broke with the Senate’s Republican leadership by saying he was in favor of giving Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a hearing, describing it as “doing my job.” This was apparently too radical a concept for some, as Moran was met with immediate pushback from tea partiers, and has now done an about face.

According to a Moran aide, Moran had a conversation with Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley in which Moran “made his opposition to Merrick Garland clear.” The aide continued, “He has examined Judge Garland’s record and didn’t need hearings to conclude that the nominee’s judicial philosophy, disregard for Second Amendment rights and sympathy for federal government bureaucracy make Garland unacceptable to serve on the Supreme Court. Senator Moran remains committed to preventing this president from putting another justice on the highest court in the land.”

Interestingly, the supposed reasons that have suddenly caused Senator Moran to reverse course even on the Senate’s holding a mere hearing for Judge Garland echo the talking points of the right wing “Judicial Crisis Network,” which by the way used to be called the “Judicial Confirmation Network” when George W. Bush was President. (Apparently, it’s important to confirm judges when Republicans are nominating them, but it becomes a “crisis” when there’s a Democrat in the White House.)

Since Judge Garland was nominated, JCN has attempted to portray him as some sort of opponent of the Second Amendment, but significantly has not pointed to a single opinion involving the Second Amendment that Judge Garland has written or joined. Instead, JCN has perverted a procedural vote that Judge Garland cast in favor of having the full D.C. Circuit re-hear a Second Amendment case of exceptional importance, a vote in which he was joined by the extremely conservative Judge Raymond Randolph, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush; this distortion of Judge Garland’s record has been thoroughly exposed for the nonsense it is.

As for Judge Garland’s supposed “sympathy for federal government bureaucracy,” it’s unclear exactly what Senator Moran’s aide means by that, but it’s worth noting that a huge number of the cases heard by the D.C. Circuit involve challenges to actions taken or rules promulgated by federal agencies. In many such cases, precedent of the Supreme Court — precedent that D.C. Circuit judges like Merrick Garland must obey — has mandated that deference be paid to those agencies. Check the records of Republican and Democratic appointees to the D.C. Circuit alike, and you’ll see that required deference being paid.

But in any event, wouldn’t it be nice to ask Judge Garland about these things, and let him clear up any misconceptions and smears? Oh wait, that’s what Senators could do at a hearing — ask Judge Garland questions! Ask him about his record. Ask him about the Second Amendment. Ask him about his supposed “sympathy for federal government bureaucracy.” Ask him about his judicial philosophy. Ask him about the Constitution.

Why are so many Senate Republicans afraid to give Judge Garland a hearing? I can only believe it’s because they know that Americans would like what Judge Garland has to say.


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