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Merrick Garland

Attorney General

Merrick Garland, a federal appeals judge for the influential D.C. circuit, is well-known for his unsuccessful nomination process for the Supreme Court due to opposition by Senate Republicans. Prior to serving as attorney general, Garland had no discernible record on reproductive or LGBTQIA+ rights and had received mixed reviews for his decisions regarding human rights. However, his efforts as attorney general to protect abortion as a constitutional right warrant a green rating.

Merrick Garland Was Confirmed As Attorney General On March 10, 2021

Garland Was Confirmed By The Senate As Attorney General In March 2021.“The Senate voted to confirm Merrick B. Garland on Wednesday to serve as attorney general, giving the former prosecutor and widely respected federal judge the task of leading the Justice Department at a time when the nation faces domestic extremist threats and a reckoning over civil rights. Judge Garland was confirmed 70 to 30, with 20 Republicans joining all 50 Democrats in supporting him. He is expected to be sworn in at the Justice Department on Thursday.” [New York Times, 3/10/21]

Merrick Garland Was Reported As A Potential Nominee For Attorney General On Nov. 20, 2020

NPR Reported Merrick Garland To Be President-Elect Biden’s Potential Pick For Attorney General. “Federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland is under consideration to serve as attorney general in the administration of President-elect Joe Biden, NPR has learned from two people closely following the process.” [NPR, 11/20/20]

CNN Reported Merrick Garland And Doug Jones Were The Two Frontrunners Most Likely To Be Nominated As Attorney General. “The discussions inside the transition team are down to a series of front-runners, people familiar with the search tell CNN, with Judge Merrick Garland and Alabama's Sen. Doug Jones seen as the two most likely choices. A final decision is not expected until next week.” [CNN, 12/16/20]  

Garland Has Led The DOJ’s Response To Texas Law SB8

Garland Invoked Enforcement Of The FACE Act Nearly Immediately After SB8 Went Into Effect. “The U.S. Department of Justice today issued the following statement from Attorney General Merrick B. Garland regarding Texas SB8: “While the Justice Department urgently explores all options to challenge Texas SB8 in order to protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons, including access to an abortion, we will continue to protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services pursuant to our criminal and civil enforcement of the FACE Act, 18 U.S.C. § 248.” [Department of Justice, 9/6/21]

  • The FACE Act Protects Abortion Providers And Patients From Harm And Interference. “The FACE Act prohibits the use or threat of force and physical obstruction that injures, intimidates, or interferes with a person seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services. It also prohibits intentional property damage of a facility providing reproductive health services. The department has consistently obtained criminal and civil remedies for violations of the FACE Act since it was signed into law in 1994, and it will continue to do so now.” [Department of Justice, 9/6/21]
  •  Garland Pledged The DOJ’s Support For Those Providing And Seeking Abortion Care In Texas. ‘“The department will provide support from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is under attack. We have reached out to U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and FBI field offices in Texas and across the country to discuss our enforcement authorities. “We will not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services, physical obstruction or property damage in violation of the FACE Act.”’ [Department of Justice, 9/6/21]

Garland Described SB8 As Unconstitutional During The DOJ’s Announcement Of Its Lawsuit Against Texas. “SB8 bans nearly all abortions in the state after six weeks of pregnancy – before many women even know they are pregnant and months before a pregnancy is viable. It does so even in cases of rape, sexual abuse or incest. And it further prohibits any effort to aid the doctors who provide pre-viability abortions or the women who seek them. The Act is clearly unconstitutional under longstanding Supreme Court precedent. Those precedents hold, in the words of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that “[r]egardless of whether exceptions are made for particular circumstances, a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability.” [Department of Justice, 9/9/21]

Garland Asserted The DOJ’s Responsibility To Protect The Constitutional Rights Of All Individuals. “This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans – whatever their politics or party – should fear. If it prevails, it may become a model for action in other areas, by other states, and with respect to other constitutional rights and judicial precedents. Nor need one think long or hard to realize the damage that would be done to our society if states were allowed to implement laws that empower any private individual to infringe on another’s constitutionally protected rights in this way. The United States has the authority and responsibility to ensure that no state can deprive individuals of their constitutional rights through a legislative scheme specifically designed to prevent the vindication of those rights.” [Department of Justice, 9/9/21]

Additionally, Garland Noted The Negative Impact SB8 Had On Federal Agencies And Programs. “The United States also brings this suit to assert other federal interests that SB8 unconstitutionally impairs. Among other things, SB8 conflicts with federal law by prohibiting federal agencies from exercising their authorities and carrying out their responsibilities under federal laws relating to abortion services. It also subjects federal employees and non-governmental partners who implement those laws to civil liability and penalties. Among the federal agencies and programs whose operations the statute unconstitutionally restricts are the Labor Department’s Job Corps Program, the Defense Department’s TRICARE Health Program, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the Bureau of Prisons, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Office of Personnel Management.” [Department of Justice, 9/9/21]

Garland Issued A Celebratory Statement In Response To The U.S. District Court’s Decision To Block SB8.“Today’s ruling enjoining the Texas law is a victory for women in Texas and for the rule of law. It is the foremost responsibility of the Department of Justice to defend the Constitution. We will continue to protect constitutional rights against all who would seek to undermine them.” [Department of Justice, 10/6/21]

Prior To Serving As Attorney General, Garland Had No Discernable Record On Reproductive Rights

Garland Previously Had No Clear Record On Reproductive Rights, But Anti-Abortion Organizations Cited Circumstantial Evidence That He Is Pro-Choice

As A Federal Judge, Garland Established No Clear Record On Reproductive Rights Despite His Decades-Long Tenure. “Even after serving for over twenty years as a federal judge, Garland has no record on abortion, and none of his previous rulings give much insight on where he stands on women and women's health.” [VICE News, 3/17/16]

Americans United For Life Cited Circumstantial Evidence That Garland Is Pro-Choice For Praising Justice Harry Blackmun, The Author Of Roe V. Wade. “The only shred of circumstantial insight that's been so far unearthed (by the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life) in regards to Garland's views on abortion is a talk Garland gave for a 2005 release of a book about late Justice Harry Blackmun. Blackmun authored the majority opinion on Roe v. Wade. The book cites and draws largely from Blackmun's own personal papers, which Garland referred to as ‘as a great gift to the country.’ While this was enough for the AUL to condemn Obama's nomination of Garland, it gives the rest of us very little.” [VICE News, 3/17/16]

Garland Was A Law Clerk For Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, A Supporter Of Abortion Rights.“He clerked for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, a progressive who supported abortion rights.” [VICE News, 3/17/16]

Garland Has No Clear Record On LGBTQ Rights, But He Has Ruled Against Four Parties Affiliated With LGBTQIA+ Communities

Lambda Legal, A Pro-LGBTQIA+ Non-Profit, Found That Garland Had No Clear Record On LGBTQIA+ Rights, But He Has Ruled Against Four Parties Affiliated With LGBTQIA+ Communities. “Our review found that there have been only four cases in which Judge Garland participated (none of which he authored an opinion in) that involved parties who identified as gay or who were affiliated with the LGBT community. Although, in each of these four cases, he ruled against those parties, the legal issues directly presented on the appeals he participated in were general, and suggested little about his views on sexual orientation or gender identity related issues.” [Lambda Legal, 3/29/16]

Reproductive And LGBTQIA+ Rights Groups Made Favorable Statements During His Supreme Court Nomination Process

Reproductive Rights Groups Praised Garland’s Qualifications And Called On The Senate To Move Forward On His Nomination

NARAL Pro-Choice America Praised Garland’s Qualifications And Called On The Senate To Advance His Nomination To Find Out His Stance On Reproductive Rights. “By objective standards, there are few more qualified candidates for the highest court in the land than Judge Merrick Garland, yet the Republican Senate is refusing to do its job and move his nomination forward in a timely manner. They are intentionally leaving a vacuum in one of the most hallowed and significant institutions in our country and denying the American people a complete and full vetting of a new Supreme Court justice. This year, monumental cases will be decided by the Court on abortion access specifically and reproductive rights generally. Judge Garland does not have a public record on reproductive rights and Senate Republicans’ obstruction denies all of us our right to know where this nominee stands on core constitutional questions of women’s privacy, dignity, and equality. With seven in ten Americans supporting legal access to abortion, we have a right to know where our justices stand on this important issue. It’s time for Republicans to stop putting their party’s interests ahead of our nation’s. We look forward to learning more about Judge Garland’s views on the constitutional right to abortion and reproductive freedom as this process continues. President Obama fulfilled his constitutional duty today to help fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, now Senator McConnell and the Senate Republicans must fulfill theirs.” [NARAL Pro-Choice America, 3/16/16]

Cecile Richards, President Of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Commended Garland’s Accomplishments And Called For A Hearing And An Up Or Down Vote. “Judge Garland is ​an intelligent, highly accomplished judge who has secured bipartisan support in his previous appointments. Now that the President has upheld his constitutional duty, it is time for the Senate to uphold theirs. The American people deserve a full court and a justice appointed by the President they elected for four years — not three. It is time for the Senate to do their job and give Judge Garland a fair hearing and up or down vote.” [Planned Parenthood Action Fund, 3/16/16]

Center For Reproductive Rights Called On The Senate To Move Forward With Garland’s Confirmation Hearings. "Today, President Obama took an important step by nominating Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Supreme Court Justices are responsible for some of the most consequential legal decisions affecting the lives of all Americans, and we strongly urge the Senate to put partisan politics aside and move quickly to fulfill its constitutional duty by immediately holding confirmation hearings. It is critical that the next Supreme Court Justice recognize and uphold decades of Court precedent protecting women's reproductive rights and safeguard our liberty and dignity against political attacks. We look forward to the confirmation of a justice that recognizes the urgency of protecting women's constitutional rights at a time when they have become severely imperiled." [Center for Reproductive Rights, 3/16/16]

LGBTQIA+ Rights Groups Praised Garland’s Qualifications And Called On The Senate To Move Forward On His Nomination

Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign, Praised Garland’s Qualifications And Called On The Senate To Consider The Nomination. “Americans deserve a full Supreme Court bench, and President Obama's nominee deserves a hearing. There is no doubt that Merrick Garland is a highly qualified candidate, and the Senate has a Constitutional responsibility to give him swift and fair consideration. The Supreme Court has a sacred responsibility to uphold the rights of all citizens, and we must hold accountable any politicians who tamper with our nation’s highest court for their own gain.” [Human Rights Campaign, 3/16/16]

The National LGBTQ Task Force Praised Garland’s Qualifications And Called On The Senate To Take Action On The Nomination Immediately. “Today, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Garland is a highly qualified candidate and now the U.S. Senate must fulfill its obligation of holding a fair hearing and vote on his confirmation to the Court. Delaying to fill the Supreme Court vacancy has serious implications for the lives of millions of people for generations to come. Too much is at stake including the future of voting rights, racial justice, economic justice, immigration reform, reproductive rights, and full equality for LGBTQ people. We urge the Senate leadership not to play politics with our judicial system and move the hearing and voting process forward swiftly. Failing to hold a fair hearing is not only morally wrong but it is also a complete disregard to the Constitutional responsibilities of the Senate.” [National LGBTQ Task Force, 3/16/16]

Although Garland Has Favored Environmental Regulation And Workers Claiming Discrimination, He Has A Mixed Record Regarding Criminal Justice

Garland Has Generally Favored Employment Discrimination Claims And Environmental Protection But Has Sided Against Criminal Defendants

Garland Has Been Characterized As More Liberal On Labor And The Environment But More Conservative On Criminal Justice Matters. “Overall, the 63-year-old judge's record is difficult to characterize. More liberal on some subjects, such as labor and the environment, he frequently sides with police and prosecutors over criminal defendants.” [USA Today, 5/10/16]

Garland Tends To Side With Workers Claiming Discrimination But Against Criminal Defendants. “In more run-of-the-mill cases, he was apt to side with workers claiming employment discrimination and against criminal defendants who said their rights had been violated.” [New York Times, 3/17/16]

Garland Has A Mixed Record On The Rights Of Detainees Held In Foreign Prisons Run By The U.S. Military

Garland Has A Mixed Record On The Rights Of Detainees At Guantánamo Bay. “He has given mixed signals in cases concerning detainees held at Guantánamo. In 2003, he joined a unanimous three-judge panel in Al Odah v. United States, which ruled that men held at the prison could not challenge their detentions in federal court based on a 1950 Supreme Court precedent. The Supreme Court later rejected the appeals court’s reasoning. In 2008, Judge Garland wrote an opinion for a unanimous three-judge panel concluding that a military tribunal had wrongly classified Huzaifa Parhat, a Chinese Uighur, as an enemy combatant. In the process, Judge Garland rejected an intelligence assessment...In 2014, Judge Garland joined a decision upholding a policy at Guantánamo that allowed guards to probe the genitals of detainees seeking to meet with their lawyers. Supreme Court precedent required great deference to prison officials’ assessments of security protocols, the court said.” [New York Times, 3/17/16]

Garland Wrote A Strong Dissent In Favor Of The Victims Of Abuse At The Abu Ghraib Prison In Iraq. “Judge Garland’s voice is most vivid in his infrequent dissents. In 2009, for instance, in Saleh v. Titan Corp., he said the majority had gone badly astray in barring a suit against American military contractors by victims of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. ‘The plaintiffs in these cases allege that they were beaten, electrocuted, raped, subjected to attacks by dogs and otherwise abused by private contractors working as interpreters and interrogators,’ he wrote, adding that both the Bush and Obama administrations, along with Congress, ‘have repeatedly and vociferously condemned the conduct at Abu Ghraib as contrary to the values and interests of the United States.’” [New York Times, 3/17/16]



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