The Volokh Conspiracy

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Department of Justice

Merrick Garland for Attorney General?

The well-respected appellate judge might be just the sort of Attorney General the nation needs.


NPR is reporting that Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is under consideration as a potential Biden nominee to lead the Department of Justice in the Biden Administration. Readers will no doubt recall that President Obama tapped Judge Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court in 2016, and that Garland's appointment was stymied by the Senate Republican leadership's refusal to act on the nomination. What some readers may not know is that Judge Garland is a veteran of the Justice Department, having served as a deputy associate attorney general, a deputy assistant attorney general in the criminal division, and as an assistant U.S. attorney.

While Republicans opposed allowing President Obama to shift the balance of the Supreme Court by replacing Justice Scalia with a liberal justice, Judge Garland is well-respected on both sides of the aisle and would likely be a relatively non-controversial Attorney General nominee. More importantly, his stature and independence would give him a degree of credibility more "political" nominees might lack. If President-elect Biden is looking for an Ed Levi-like figure to take over the helm at Justice, it would be hard to do better than Judge Garland.  Indeed, given the tumult and controversy within the Department of Justice these past four years, a figure like Merrick Garland might be just what the Department needs.