Obama's Supreme Court Pick Has Worked on Multiple Democratic Political Campaigns

'Moderate' Merrick Garland volunteered for Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, and Bill Clinton

March 17, 2016

President Barack Obama's choice for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court was presented as a moderate that could have bipartisan appeal, but Merrick Garland has previously disclosed in official documents that he has offered his services to numerous Democratic presidential candidates.

Buried in a questionnaire Garland submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1995 is his disclosure of volunteer work for Democratic politicians that stretched from his years as a college student up to Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992.

"I provided volunteer assistance on a Presidential Debate for President Clinton in October 1992 and for Michael Dukakis in October 1988," Garland wrote in response to a question on his previous political involvement. "I did some volunteer work for Walter Mondale's presidential campaign in 1983-84. As a college student, I worked two summers for the campaign of my then-congressman, Abner Mikva, in 1972 and 1974."

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Garland was not a regular volunteer when he offered his services to Democratic presidential campaigns.

Garland’s work for Mondale, Dukakis, and Clinton all came after his graduation from Harvard Law School, once he had begun his professional legal career.

During the 1988 election, Garland was already a partner at a prominent private law firm. By the time he volunteered for Clinton in 1992, he was working as a prosecutor for the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, D.C. After Clinton won in 1992, Garland got a job in the administration as deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's criminal division.

Although the bulk of Garland’s volunteer work was for presidential candidates, his most interesting political work may be the two summer internships he completed with Rep. Abner Mikva (D., Ill.).

Mikva, a University of Chicago Law School graduate who served as a representative for a Chicago district from 1969 to 1979, was named to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by President Jimmy Carter.

He held that position until Clinton offered him a position in his administration as White House counsel. Clinton then nominated Garland, Mikva's former intern, to take over his seat on the D.C. Circuit.

Mikva is also a longtime acquaintance of Obama. In 1991, when Obama graduated from Harvard Law School, he received a clerkship offer from Mikva. Obama declined the position but started a lasting friendship with Mikva that still exists.

It remains a long shot that the Republican-controlled Senate will confirm or hold hearings on Garland, Obama’s nominee. The New York Times wrote Wednesday that if Garland were put on the court, it would become "the most liberal in decades."

The four other judges that Obama was reportedly considering for the nomination were all donors to his political campaigns for president.