WASHINGTON – U.S. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland is getting a boost for his Supreme Court nomination from some of the lawyers who know him best: his former law clerks.
Sixty-eight former Garland clerks signed a letter delivered Monday to Senate leaders of both parties, urging them to confirm his nomination. The signers comprise all but three of the ex-clerks Garland has employed since he joined the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1997. And the three holdouts have a good reason: They are currently clerks for Supreme Court justices.
The three-page tribute is both professional and personal.
“There are not many bosses who so uniformly inspire the loyalty that we all feel toward Chief Judge Garland,” the ex-clerks write. “Our enthusiasm is both a testament to his character and a reflection of his commitment to mentoring and encouraging us long after we left his chambers. He has stood by our side during the happiest moments of our lives — quite literally, having officiated the weddings of seven of his former clerks. He has welcomed us and our growing families into his home. He is a constant source of career advice and guidance. And he has offered love and support in the dark times, too, when we have suffered setbacks, losses, and uncertainty.”
Clerkships on the D.C. Circuit are among the nation’s most prestigious, second only to the Supreme Court itself. The signers have gone on to high-level positions in federal and state government, private practices and academia. Several have spent time in the Office of the White House Counsel; one of those lawyers, Danielle Gray, served as Cabinet secretary to President Obama.
The letter paints a familiar portrait of Garland as a careful judge, a hardworking public servant and a devoted family man. But it also offers a couple of glimpses behind the curtain.
In one notable passage, the clerks write that Garland “taught us the value of diversity, in all its forms.”
“We observed how Chief Judge Garland forged meaningful connections with others from a wide array of backgrounds and ideological perspectives — from the law clerks he hires to the personal and professional relationships he maintains. He finds camaraderie with his fellow judges without regard to who nominated them to the bench. Chief Judge Garland deeply believes that our system of justice works best when those who see things differently are able to work together, in a collegial manner, to arrive at a just result. And when he must disagree with his colleagues, he always does so respectfully.”
And they describe how his private response to the Sept. 11 attacks had a profound impression on the four clerks who were working for him at the time: “From his chambers, we watched with horror the news about the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In the days after, we remember the explicit importance Chief Judge Garland placed on coming to the office every day and continuing to prepare for upcoming cases. In the aftermath of that terrible tragedy, he believed it was more important than ever for the American people to see that their system of government was functioning without interruption — that the rule of law endured.”