Today, President Barack Obama nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. If confirmed, Judge Garland will assume the seat left vacant by the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia on February 13, 2016. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) congratulates Judge Garland on his nomination and calls upon the Senate to consider his nomination expeditiously.
Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of LDF, emphasized the need for the Senate to immediately begin the process of reviewing Judge Garland’s record and fulfilling its constitutional “advise and consent” function. “Now that the President has exercised his constitutional authority to nominate Judge Garland for the Supreme Court, we expect that the Senate will fulfill its constitutional responsibility and hold a fair and prompt hearing,” said Ifill. “We regard any effort to deprive President Obama of his constitutional right to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court as an irresponsible and politically-motivated effort to undermine the authority of this President.”
As with each nominee to the Supreme Court, Ifill explained that LDF will once again “carefully review Judge Garland’s entire record, focusing in particular on issues of civil rights and racial justice. We look forward to sharing our findings with members of the Senate and the public as we move forward together in this critical process.”
On March 2, 2016, LDF submitted a letter urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to carry out its constitutional duty by holding a hearing for a Supreme Court nominee presented by President Obama. In the letter, LDF made clear that nothing in the text or history of the Constitution supports the position that the President cannot fill a Supreme Court vacancy during his or her second term in office. Obstruction by the Senate would precipitate an unprecedented and unnecessary constitutional crisis, hobble the highest court in the land, and undermine the rule of law.
Previously, on February 26, 2016, LDF joined with 81 other organizations in issuing a letter urging members of the Judiciary Committee to reconsider their refusal to move forward on any nomination until January 20, 2017, when the next President is sworn into office.
Notwithstanding the stated intention of some Senators to refuse to fulfill their constitutional obligation to provide and “advise and consent” for a qualified nominee, LDF expects that the Judiciary Committee will return to the practice followed since 1875 of moving Supreme Court nominees forward in a confirmation process that, in modern times, has included a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
As part of its overall work on civil rights and human rights, LDF has long been actively involved in nominations to the Supreme Court and to other courts across the nation. LDF remains a steadfast advocate in the quest to make the federal judiciary more diverse and representative of the nation and to maintain an appropriate role for the courts in enforcing civil rights laws and applying the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. For several decades, LDF has engaged in a careful and comprehensive review of the records of Supreme Court nominees, including those of John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, and generated detailed reports about their qualifications and records on civil rights and constitutional protections. LDF will continue in this tradition of review and public comment with this current nomination and reiterates the obligation of the Senate to fulfill its constitutional duty to fairly consider Judge Garland’s nomination.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.