President Obama will nominate Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to the Supreme Court today, according to multiple sources.
Garland, called “a fine man” by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) days ago, has impeccable experience (he's no Harriet Miers!).
According to Think Progress, Garland's creed as a moderate jurist is well-documented:
In 2003, for example, Garland joined an opinion holding that the federal judiciary lacks the authority “to assert habeas corpus jurisdiction at the behest of an alien held at a military base leased from another nation, a military base outside the sovereignty of the United States” — an opinion that effectively prohibited Guantanamo Bay detainees from seeking relief in civilian courts. A little over a year later, the Supreme Court reversed this decision in Rasul v. Bush. Although, in fairness, it should be noted that legal experts disagree about whether the decision Garland joined was mandated by existing precedents.
The former prosecutor also has a relatively conservative record on criminal justice. A 2010 examination of his decisions by SCOTUSBlog’s Tom Goldstein determined that “Judge Garland rarely votes in favor of criminal defendants’ appeals of their convictions.” Goldstein “identified only eight such published rulings,” in addition to seven where “he voted to reverse the defendant’s sentence in whole or in part, or to permit the defendant to raise a argument relating to sentencing on remand,” during the 13 years Garland had then spent on the DC Circuit.
Garland is also 63, so would not be likely to sit on the court for 30+ years, adding to his appeal as a compromise candidate who would still be a giant leap away from the hard-right Justice Scalia.
Obama appears to have outfoxed the Senate Republicans, who have refused to so much as meet his nominee, by presenting them with a moderate who should for absolutely no reason by denied this position. If the Senate blows him off, the Democrats can make hay of it all through the election. If the Democrat (likely Hillary Clinton) wins that election, the nominee could change or stay the same and we'd still have a far more open-minded person on the Court. If they confirm him, he ain't Ginsberg, but he ain't Scalia, and the court tilts to the left.
I'm going to miss this president.