President Obama’s announcement on Wednesday that he will nominate Merrick Garland for the open seat on the Supreme Court isn’t the first time that Garland, who is currently chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has had his name brought up in connection with the highest court in the land.
The last two times that a seat on the bench opened up, in 2010 and 2009, Garland was discussed as a shortlisted candidate. Those nominations eventually went to Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, but not before Washington and its observers had had time to react to the potential for Garland’s nomination. Some of those reactions—notably, that he was too old—have been proved moot by his nomination. But, as current Senate Republicans promise not to consider any nominee chosen by Obama, it’s interesting to look back at how experts responded to Garland several years ago, when some suggested he would receive bipartisan support if nominated.
Benjamin Wittes, then a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution (who disclosed that he was also friendly with Garland), wrote that a “Garland nomination would be a bold statement of faith on the president’s part that legal excellence and a willingness to engage with ideological opponents can break down seemingly insurmountable walls.”
Ed Whelan, who was a Justice Department official with the Bush administration, called him “the best that conservatives could reasonably hope for from a Democratic President.”