The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
March 16, 2016
11:04 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Everybody, please have a seat.
Of the many powers and responsibilities that the Constitution vests in the presidency, few are more consequential than appointing a Supreme Court justice -- particularly one to succeed Justice Scalia, one of the most influential jurists of our time.
The men and women who sit on the Supreme Court are the final arbiters of American law. They safeguard our rights. They ensure that our system is one of laws and not men. They're charged with the essential task of applying principles put to paper more than two centuries ago to some of the most challenging questions of our time.'
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So this is not a responsibility that I take lightly. It's a decision that requires me to set aside short-term expediency and narrow politics, so as to maintain faith with our founders and, perhaps more importantly, with future generations. That's why, over the past several weeks, I've done my best to set up a rigorous and comprehensive process. I've sought the advice of Republican and Democratic members of Congress. We've reached out to every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to constitutional scholars, to advocacy groups, to bar associations, representing an array of interests and opinions from all across the spectrum.
And today, after completing this exhaustive process, I've made my decision. I've selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of America's sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness, and excellence. These qualities, and his long commitment to public service, have earned him the respect and admiration of leaders from both sides of the aisle. He will ultimately bring that same character to bear on the Supreme Court, an institution in which he is uniquely prepared to serve immediately.
Today, I am nominating Chief Judge Merrick Brian Garland to join the Supreme Court. (Applause.)
Now, in law enforcement circles, and the in the legal community at large, Judge Garland needs no introduction. But I'd like to take a minute to introduce Merrick to the American people, whom he already so ably serves.
He was born and raised in the Land of Lincoln -- in my hometown of Chicago, in my home state of Illinois. His mother volunteered in the community; his father ran a small business out of their home. Inheriting that work ethic, Merrick became valedictorian of his public high school. He earned a scholarship to Harvard, where he graduated summa cum laude. And he put himself through Harvard Law School by working as a tutor, by stocking shoes in a shoe store, and, in what is always a painful moment for any young man, by selling his comic book collection. (Laughter.) It's tough. Been there. (Laughter.)
Merrick graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law, and the early years of his legal career bear all the traditional marks of excellence. He clerked for two of President Eisenhower's judicial appointees -- first for a legendary judge on the Second Circuit, Judge Henry Friendly, and then for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan. Following his clerkships, Merrick joined a highly regarded law firm, with a practice focused on litigation and pro bono representation of disadvantaged Americans. Within four years, he earned a partnership -- the dream of most lawyers. But in 1989, just months after that achievement, Merrick made a highly unusual career decision. He walked away from a comfortable and lucrative law practice to return to public service.
Merrick accepted a low-level job as a federal prosecutor in President George H.W. Bush's administration. He took a 50-percent pay cut, traded in his elegant partner's office for a windowless closet that smelled of stale cigarette smoke. This was a time when crime here in Washington had reached epidemic proportions, and he wanted to help. And he quickly made a name for himself, going after corrupt politicians and violent criminals.
His sterling record as a prosecutor led him to the Justice Department, where he oversaw some of the most significant prosecutions in the 1990s -- including overseeing every aspect of the federal response to the Oklahoma City bombing. In the aftermath of that act of terror, when 168 people, many of them small children, were murdered, Merrick had one evening to say goodbye to his own young daughters before he boarded a plane to Oklahoma City. And he would remain there for weeks. He worked side-by-side with first responders, rescue workers, local and federal law enforcement. He led the investigation and supervised the prosecution that brought Timothy McVeigh to justice.
But perhaps most important is the way he did it. Throughout the process, Merrick took pains to do everything by the book. When people offered to turn over evidence voluntarily, he refused, taking the harder route of obtaining the proper subpoenas instead, because Merrick would take no chances that someone who murdered innocent Americans might go free on a technicality.
Merrick also made a concerted effort to reach out to the victims and their families, updating them frequently on the case's progress. Everywhere he went, he carried with him in his briefcase the program from the memorial service with each of the victims' names inside –- a constant, searing reminder of why he had to succeed.
Judge Garland has often referred to his work on the Oklahoma City case as, and I quote, "the most important thing I have ever done in my life." And through it all, he never lost touch with that community that he served.
It's no surprise then, that soon after his work in Oklahoma City, Merrick was nominated to what's often called the second highest court in the land -- the D.C. Circuit Court. During that process, during that confirmation process, he earned overwhelming bipartisan praise from senators and legal experts alike. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who was then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, supported his nomination. Back then, he said, "In all honesty, I would like to see one person come to this floor and say one reason why Merrick Garland does not deserve this position." He actually accused fellow Senate Republicans trying to obstruct Merrick's confirmation of "playing politics with judges." And he has since said that Judge Garland would be a "consensus nominee" for the Supreme Court who "would be very well supported by all sides," and there would be "no question" Merrick would be confirmed with bipartisan support.