President Barack Obama nominated appeals court Judge Merrick Garland for the U.S. Supreme Court position vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia during a press conference on Wednesday.
Obama lauded Garland’s many legal accomplishments, which include graduating magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. Garland obtained the rank of partner at a prestigious law firm just a few years later, but left the job after four months to become a federal prosecutor, taking a 50 percent pay cut in the process.
Obama also said that Garland has the “respect and admiration of leaders from both sides of the aisle” and that he worked closely with law enforcement in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City Bombing. “To find someone that everyone respects and generally likes is rare,” the President said.
Garland currently serves as the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He was confirmed in 1997 for a position on that court in a 76-23 decision in the Senate.
Obama also called out Senate Republicans for saying he should not nominate a Supreme Court Justice in the final year of his Presidency. “I have fulfilled my Constitutional duty. Now it’s time for the Senate to do theirs,” he said.
“Our Supreme Court really is unique,” he continued. “It’s supposed to be above politics. It has to be and should stay that way.”
Garland was nearly moved to tears when he stepped to the podium, calling this nomination “the greatest gift I have ever received,” other than the birth of his daughters. “People must be confident that a judge’s decisons are determined by the law and only the law,” he said.
In February, Justice Scalia was found dead at a ranch in Texas at age 79. During the press conference, the President called Scalia “one of the most influential jurists of our time.”