Little known Canadian reporter/blogger Out Scoops Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe “Spotlight” Team in its own Backyard!!
President Obama recently nominated Merrick Garland, currently Chief Justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to fill the seat on the Supreme Court created by the recent untimely death of Supreme Court Justice Scalia.
Obama made this formal announcement in the White House Rose Garden. He was flanked by Judge Garland and Vice President Biden.
I watched online this public announcement several times. I felt in my gut that something was not right about this picture. Because I knew Merrick well at Harvard. As undergraduates, we served for three years together on Harvard’s most visible student-faculty committee, the Committee of Houses and Undergraduate Life. (CHUL)
In announcing his selection of Garland, Obama stated, “I’ve selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness, and excellence.”
Obama further went on to add, “these qualities and his long commitment to public service have earned him the respect and admiration of leaders from both sides of the aisle.”
The Merrick Garland I remember from Harvard was all these qualities. But he was also much much more!
The Merrick I remember was a dominant force in the intellectual and academic life of Harvard. He majored in one of Harvard’s most highly selective concentrations, Social Studies. In which he graduated summa cum laude. He stood at the top or near the top of the entire Harvard-Radcliffe class. A tremendous achievement.
Merrick was also a dominant force in student government. He was fearless. He was tough and supremely self-confident. He loved debating not only his fellow students, but he was not afraid to take on the famous tenured professors on the committee, many years his senior. Merrick was brilliant. And he knew he was brilliant. He was also arrogant. But then again many Harvard and Radcliffe students in those days were arrogant.
And especially so on this student-faculty committee. Composed of elected representatives from each of the Harvard Houses,( upper class residences) who in turn were selected by many egocentric Harvard- Radcliffe types who were in turn presidents of their high school student councils.
My point is that the Merrick Garland presented at the Rose Garden, that rather short , slight, grey-haired and inoffensive and harmless guy, with glasses, who seemed a foot shorter than the lanky Obama, is not the tough and self-assured Merrick Garland that I knew at Harvard.
And I suspect the image that was presented that day, was not the brilliant and penetrating jurist who has risen to become the chief justice of the second most powerful court in the land, after the U.S. Supreme Court.
Merrick was portrayed in the Rose Garden as brilliant, but basically harmless and inoffensive. A long-serving public servant. With integrity and decency.
In fact, Merrick, after almost two decades on the federal bench, is the most experienced federal jurist to be nominated in the history of the Supreme Court. He is probably the most intelligent Supreme Court justice and I suspect will become one of the most powerful and influential Supreme Court justices within a short time of his confirmation.
Above is an article, I dug up from the archives, written by Merrick as a 20 year old junior at Harvard for the Harvard Independent about the pros and cons of student-faculty committees versus student- run governments. Note the fire in Merrick’s self-confident eyes.
Check out this article which reflects his incisive and steel-trap mind. In this article, Merrick zeroed in on where the power lay in Harvard- the Administration and the faculty ( ie the executive and Congress) , but clearly not with the students, whose only influence was derived from their association with faculty members.
However, in the case of the U.S. Supreme Court, its power, as co-equal to the other two branches, is derived from the Constitution. And Merrick knows this in his bones.
As at Harvard, Merrick knows where the power lies, and as a Supreme Court Justice, he will not shrink from exercising his influence on the most powerful court in the land.
Merrick is more than the harmless consensus builder that Obama has suggested. If confirmed, I predict Merrick will dominate this court as he did the faculty and the students on CHUL in his Harvard undergraduate days.