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The Hilltop


The President’s Nominee: A Conversation with Chief Judge Merrick Garland

By Paul Holston, Editor-in-Chief
Posted 11:00 PM EST, Sun., Oct. 2, 2016

With Howard University’s Moot Court Room packed full of students, faculty and administrators, the conversation of the day came when Danielle Holley, dean of the Howard University School of Law, sat down with Chief Judge Merrick Garland during an arm chair conversation Tuesday, September 20.

In celebrating #HUConstitutionDay, which reflected on the 150th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 with current debates around citizenship, the audience was provided an opportunity to hear from Garland as the discussion highlighted talks of both his personal and professional lives of being a law school student at Harvard University and a chief judge.

“You are not the first person to struggle and make decisions on what you want to do, but being a lawyer is a part of public service that you can be a part of, ” said Garland when asked about deciding on going to law school and serving through law.

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Garland currently serves as the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He was nominated by President Barack Obama March 16 to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court of the United States, but has yet to receive a vote from Congress. It has been over 200 days since Obama nominated Garland.

Many students in attendance felt that the conversation was very interpersonal with Garland, as some were able to get a humane aspect of the judge.

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“I thought it was very informative and a transparent of his life and of his journey and the legal profession as a public service to the communities that he served,” said William Hill, a second year medical student at Howard University’s College of Medicine.

“I think he was very relatable from a law student perspective,” said Lauren Jackson, a third-year student at the Howard Law School. “Questions like work, life balance and clerking…those are questions that we all ask on a daily basis.”

“To kind of hear it from somebody from his stature, it actually is very helpful and reassuring where at times we’re like: I don’t know if I can do this,” she said.

As questions to why Garland has yet to receive a vote from Congress, where he now holds the record for the longest Supreme Court wait, most of the attendees from the conversation agreed: Congress needs to do its job.

“It’s very important,” said Edward A Hailes Jr., general counsel for Advancement Project and a triple Howard alumnus. “I think its important to have what the constitution calls for: A ninth Supreme Court justice so that people of color can feel confident that there voices are heard at the highest level of judiciary.”

“There’s never been a vacancy for such as period of time on the court and there are incredibly important cases that come before the court each term that implicate the lives of African-Americans,” said Kristen Clarke, president & executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee).

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“I am pleased that the students at Howard Law School had the opportunity to meet him [Garland] and get to know the judge in person. Frankly, this is the kind of meeting that you’d hope would happen on Capitol Hill in the context of a hearing.”

“I think the vacancy should be filled sooner rather than later,” said Hill. “From a true law standpoint, I think nine is what it needs to be.”

With a vacant seat affecting the highest judiciary court for all Americans, especially African-Americans, Jackson, who serves as the Howard Student Bar Association’s president, expressed that she hopes that Garland continues to represent the underrepresented.

“If he does have this relationship with Howard Law, I hope he has aids in his ears that can keep him abreast on the issues that we face as African-Americans,” said Jackson.

“Just like when we turned on the news this morning, we had another police-involved shooting. Another issue…and I definitely feel that the seat needs to be filled as soon as possible.”

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