President Barack Obama chose Merrick Garland, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, this week to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.
At the ceremony announcing Garland’s nomination Obama declared that “I have 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, evenhandedness and excellence.”
While on the bench Garland has been a proponent of judicial restraint in which the judiciary should defer to the Executive Branch. Thus, he supported EPA regulations that require corporations to reduce mercury emissions, regardless of cost. By the same token, he supported 22 pro-labor decisions made by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
However, on four cases Garland shied away from his philosophy of judicial restraint in favor of pro-labor policies.
The fact that Garland is far friendlier to labor unions than Scalia ever was has serious consequences for unions. Any Supreme Court pick by Obama would likely have ruled on labor’s side when it came to the Freidrichs v. California Teachers Association case which the Supreme Court recently began hearing arguments. Had Scalia lived, the court would have reached a 5-4 ruling against public sector unions and cut off member contributions, a major source of union funds.
Now, the Supreme Court will be split on a decision 4-4 and thus the lower court’s decision in favor of unions will likely remain in place.
Who is Merrick Garland?
Garland is the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals. Educated at Harvard for both his bachelor’s and law degree, he served in the Justice Department during both the Carter and Clinton Administrations. After serving in the Justice Department, he received his appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
So he’s pretty qualified.
In choosing Garland, Obama sought a figure who would have an impeccable resume and ideally bipartisan support since he previously praised publicly by Senators such as Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who has fought against labor rights for years.
What Happens Next?
It’s going to be a rough fight. In an era of gridlock inducing issues, a Supreme Court nomination is one of the biggest. Since Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987, the opposing party has called the decisions of any nominee “too liberal or “too conservative” and many have been defeated. The process has become so dramatic they’re making a movie about it.
Prominent Democrats have already started rallying behind Garland as the first steps to confirming Garland. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, United Auto Workers (UAW) President Dennis Williams, and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry have all issued statements supporting Garland. Henry said regarding Garland that “His records shows that he believes in the duty of government to protect regular Americans, and our democracy, from being corrupted by the excesses of the super wealthy and their corporate agenda.”
Senate Republicans have already forcefully declared that any nomination made Obama would be blocked. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).have they will not even allow the Senate to consider Garland.
Unless Obama tries to build a wall on the Mexican border himself, it’s going to be nearly impossible to get Garland confirmed.