Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee, Public Meeting to Discuss Qualifications of Merrick Garland To Serve on the Supreme Court of the United States

This morning, Chairman Grassley convened a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing.  The glaring omission from that hearing was Chief Judge Merrick Garland.  It has been more than two months since he was nominated to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.  If not for unprecedented Republican obstruction, Judge Garland would have already had a public hearing, and we would be poised to report him out of Committee.  Instead, his record is being smeared by outside groups, while Senate Republicans deny this distinguished jurist a public hearing and a fair opportunity to respond those attacks. 

As Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, I am not able to convene a confirmation hearing.  But just because Republicans refuse to do their job on Judge Garland’s nomination does not mean that we Democrats will stop doing ours.  We take our constitutional duty to evaluate Supreme Court nominees seriously.  And if there was any doubt about the importance of a fully-functioning Supreme Court, the decisions handed down this week are just the latest evidence of the harm stemming from Republican obstruction.  Since the untimely death of Justice Scalia, the Supreme Court has repeatedly failed to serve its highest function under our Constitution because it is not at full strength. 

Republican members of the Judiciary Committee met with Senator McConnell behind closed doors and decided to deny Judge Garland a fair hearing.  In sharp contrast, today’s meeting is open to the public and all Senators, and gives the American people an opportunity to learn more about the pending Supreme Court nominee.  We have before us four people who know Chief Judge Garland personally and want to share their perspectives about his character and his long record of public service. 

Donna Bucella.  Ms. Donna Bucella is a former prosecutor who worked with Merrick Garland at the Justice Department from 1993 to 1997.  She was part of his team investigating and prosecuting the Oklahoma City bombing.

Justin Driver.  Mr. Justin Driver is a professor of law at the University of Chicago Law School.  He clerked for Chief Judge Garland before clerking on the Supreme Court for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Justice Stephen Breyer.

Rodney Slater.  Secretary Rodney Slater is the former Secretary of Transportation under President Bill Clinton.  He previously served as the first African American Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration.

Judge Timothy K. Lewis.  Judge Timothy Lewis is a former Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.  He was appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1992 and served for seven years on that court.  He also served as a federal district judge in the Western District of Pennsylvania.

I welcome all of you to this public meeting and thank the speakers for being with us today.

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