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Trove of Merrick Garland-Related Documents Released by Clinton Library

Over 1,300 pages of files on the SCOTUS nominee were released from before Garland’s nomination to U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 1995

Jesse Bernstein
August 04, 2016
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 10, 2016. Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 10, 2016. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Over 1,300 pages of files on judge Merrick Garland were released yesterday by the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. These documents were made made public this week in what is a response to FOIA requests dating back to 2010, relating to “the Clinton White House’s vetting of Garland before his nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1995,” reported Politico.

Garland, of course, was nominated for the Supreme Court by President Barack Obama back in March, a decision that has been opposed by Republicans in the Senate, as well as their GOP colleagues. This strategy of delaying the confirmation process has been the subject of lengthy debates for the past several months, and has unsurprisingly become a central portion of Donald Trump’s platform.

Among the documents, of which hundreds of pages were unreleased due to national security of legal concerns, was a ringing endorsement of Garland by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), back in 1996.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)—the then-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee—pressed Majority Leader Bob Dole to allow a floor vote on Garland despite Grassley’s objections that the D.C. Circuit did not require any more judges because of its relatively light workload.

Garland “is well qualified for his position, and several prominent lawyers from both parties have indicated their enthusiastic support for his nomination,” Hatch wrote two decades ago. “I have not heard any criticisms of his qualifications or his intelligence, and I see no reason why his nomination should be delayed further.” Garland was eventually confirmed, more than a year after the letter was sent.

In the present day, Hatch has acknowledged his support for Garland, but added that it didn’t affect his support for the Republican strategy. “Despite my personal affection for Merrick, I remain convinced that the right way for the Senate to do its job is to conduct a confirmation process after this contentious presidential election season is over,” he said back in May.

The files also reveal a ringing endorsement of Garland to President Clinton, written by former justice William Brennnan. Effusive in its praise, Brennan wrote at length on Garland’s prowess as a jurist and preparedness for the job. One sample reads:

Merrick has also been a part-time law professor at Harvard and joins a scholarly bent to his keen intellect, qualities that would serve him well on the bench…I recommend him to you without reservation.

Though there was no evidence that Clinton ever personally responded, one of his top aides, former jurist Abner Mikva, thanked Brennan for his letter, and let him know that Garland was being seriously considered for the position on the D.C. Circuit Court.

Other documents, according to the Politico report, show that “Garland was extensively involved in discussions about security for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta” and “initiating a leak investigation into a 1995 article by Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz on U.S. strategy in arms control talks with the Russians. ”

Garland, for now, remains stuck in limbo. View the files here.

Jesse Bernstein is a former Intern at Tablet.

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