- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 6, 2021

President-elect Joseph R. Biden will select federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland, a one-time nominee for the Supreme Court, to serve as attorney general, according to reports.

A formal announcement is expected on Thursday.

In picking Judge Garland, Mr. Biden is choosing a nominee who is a judicial moderate with extensive prosecutorial experience, signaling a return to predictability within the Justice Department after a tumultuous four years under President Trump.

However, the pick rebuffs civil rights leaders who called for Mr. Biden to address issues of diversity and racial injustice by selecting a person of color to be America’s top cop.

Judge Garland, who is White, does not come into the job with the social justice advocacy resume of others who were considered for the position.

Candidates with fuller social justice resumes included outgoing Sen. Doug Jones, Alabama Democrat, who, while serving as a U.S. attorney, convicted Ku Klux Klan members of bombing a Black church.

Another candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black, oversaw the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which enforces federal anti-discrimination laws.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the League of United Latin American Citizens and others have urged Mr. Biden to select a person of color.

Mr. Biden last month met with civil rights activists to discuss diversity in his Cabinet. The Rev. Al Sharpton, who attended the meeting, said he pushed for a Black attorney general or at least someone with a background in civil rights.

“I said the least we could have is someone who has a proven civil rights background who is going to handle this heightened racist, bigoted atmosphere,” Mr. Sharpton said at the time.

Still, selecting Judge Garland will right a wrong Democrats felt when Senate Republicans blocked him from an appointment to the Supreme Court.

President Obama nominated Judge Garland to a seat on the high court in 2016 after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, refused to hold hearings on the nomination throughout Mr. Obama’s final year in office. The vacancy was later filled by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch under Mr. Trump.

Although Judge Garland lacks the background civil rights leaders sought, he does have Justice Department experience. He held several senior positions at the department, including supervising the prosecutions of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and Ted Kaczynski, better known as the “Unabomber.”

Judge Garland has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia since 1997, where he gained a reputation as a thoughtful and moderate judge.

The selection of Judge Garland, if confirmed by the Senate, opens a judicial seat on the powerful court, a situation more palatable for Democrats now that they will control the Senate and the White House. That gives them the power to confirm Mr. Biden’s pick to replace Judge Garland on the court.

An appointee of President Clinton, Judge Garland has often ruled conservatively in criminal cases.

His selection drew praise from Sen. Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold hearings on the nomination.

“If media reports are accurate, I believe Judge Garland would be a sound choice to be the next attorney general. He is a man of great character, integrity and tremendous competency in the law,” he said.

Judge Garland would immediately face two tests as attorney general. Democrats are expected to pressure him to prosecute Mr. Trump and at least investigate other members of his administration.

A second challenge would be how to handle the investigation into Mr. Biden’s son Hunter. The younger Biden revealed last month that federal prosecutors are investigating his taxes.

The president-elect has said he will leave such decisions to the Justice Department and supports the independence of his attorney general.

In addition to Judge Garland, Mr. Biden is expected to name Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general and former Justice Department civil rights chief Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general.

Kristen Clarke, who founded the racial justice group Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, is expected to be named assistant attorney general for civil rights.

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