Presented in most cursory reporting as simply a “moderate,” Judge Merrick Garland, the nominee for the open Supreme Court slot, has a long history of giving deference to the government’s position in high-profile cases, and oversaw some major litigation surrounding the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
Garland was part of a three-judge panel that unanimously endorsed the Bush-era Justice Department practices in 2003 when they argued that Gitmo detainees can’t legally challenge their imprisonment in federal court, effectively endorsing the administration’s claims that Gitmo, being in Cuba, amounted to a legal black hole, a position the Supreme Court overturned.
Exemplifying his tendency to take the government’s word for it when it makes an argument, Garland’s panel similarly, in 2014, allowed guards at Guantanamo to probe prisoners’ groins, insisting that the move was obviously security-related because the government declared it security-related.
A former prosecutor who made his career in big cases like the Oklahoma City Bombing, Garland is seen as favorable to the prosecution in most cases, and in his rare rulings of dissent seldom issues any significant judicial opinion to go along with it.
From letting guards rifle through people’s genitals because they say they need to, to insisting the court should just take the DEA’s word for it when they refuse scientific evidence on the grounds that “we’re not scientists,” Garland’s “moderate” nature has simply amounted to bipartisan backing of government positions, making him a fairly safe consensus choice for legislators who want to make sure the court endorses whatever the sitting president says is legal at any given time.