Judge Merrick Garland. Photo from the White House.
President-elect Joe Biden has reportedly picked Judge Merrick Garland to be the next U.S. attorney general, according to media reports.
Garland, a 68-year-old judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, began recusing himself from cases involving the U.S. government in December. Politico describes the move as a bid to “remain above ethical reproach” should he be chosen as attorney general.
President Barack Obama had nominated Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court in March 2016, but the bid failed when the Republican-controlled Senate refused to have a hearing on the nomination. Garland received a well-qualified rating for the position by the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.
Garland is a former Department of Justice official who oversaw prosecutions in the Oklahoma City bombing and the Unabomber case. He was nominated to the D.C. appeals court by President Bill Clinton in 1997.
“To many legal observers,” the Washington Post reports, Garland “seems an ideal candidate to restore the Justice Department’s independence and credibility which was eroded under President Trump. He enjoys a reputation as a unifying, moderating force on the appeals court, and has previous experience in the Justice Department.”
A Washington Post op-ed says Garland is known for his “astonishing integrity,” his “core decency,” and his “passionate dedication to a very old-fashioned and now desperately needed sense of public service.”
Some think, however, that Garland is too moderate for the position because he is deferential to police and prosecutors in his rulings.
The New York Times points out that Garland “will face vexing decisions” about whether to investigate President Donald Trump and how to handle a tax investigation of Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.
The Washington Post op-ed notes that many Republicans have praised Garland, making him “the ideal person to untangle the mess that Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr will leave behind.”
Others said to have been in the running for attorney general were former Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.