Obama picks Garland for Supreme Court

Merrick Garland (file photo)Image copyright

President Barack Obama has announced he is nominating veteran appeals court judge Merrick Garland to be the next US Supreme Court Justice.

The Supreme Court vacancy follows the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last month at the age of 79.

Judge Garland, 63, is the chief judge of the Washington appeals court and a former prosecutor.

The Republican majority in the Senate has said it will block a vote on any Supreme Court nominee from Mr Obama.

Republicans have called on Mr Obama to leave the nomination to his successor, who will be elected in November.

The death of Scalia, a staunch conservative, left the nine-member Supreme Court evenly divided between conservatives and liberals.

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It also set off a battle in a presidential election year over Scalia’s successor.

Over to the Republicans – Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington DC

There were a lot of possible strategies being suggested as President Obama considered who would be his Supreme Court nominee. Would he opt for a young, outspoken liberal to rally his party’s base and enact a generational ideological change on the court? Would he chose an underrepresented ethnicity or a woman that would force Republicans to risk angering some key voting bloc if they failed to confirm?

In the end Mr Obama chose accommodation by picking an older centrist in appellate court judge Merrick Garland.

It could be that Mr Obama still thinks there’s a chance of Senate confirmation for a respected moderate. Maybe he thinks voters will be angered if the Senate rejects even the most uncontroversial choice.

Or perhaps Mr Garland was the best, most qualified candidate who would agree to go along with what will likely be a bruising, probably futile nomination process – a sacrificial lamb offered up in acknowledgment of a dire political reality.

One way or the other it’s the Republicans’ move now. They can accept Mr Garland or gamble that there won’t be a new Democratic president next year who is itching for a fight.

Announcing the nomination in the White House Rose Garden, President Obama said Merrick Garland enjoyed respect from Democrats and Republicans alike.

He praised Mr Garland’s decency, integrity and even-handedness during his long career in public service, and described him as an exemplary judge.

He also said Mr Garland was prepared to serve on the court immediately.

Merrick Garland was appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1997, winning confirmation in a 76-23 Senate vote, and served in the Justice Department during the Clinton administration prior to that.

One White House official quoted by Reuters news agency said: “No-one is better suited to immediately serve on the Supreme Court.”

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Image caption

Justice Scalia died on 13 February

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