Merrick Garland

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Person.png Merrick Garland  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
AG Garland.jpg
BornMerrick Brian Garland
13 November 1952
Alma materHarvard University

Merrick Garland is an American lawyer and jurist who since March 2021 has been the 86th United States Attorney General. He previously was a US circuit judge of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1997 to 2021.

Legal career

A native of the Chicago area, Merrick Garland attended Harvard University for his undergraduate and legal education. After serving as a law clerk to Judge Henry J. Friendly of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr, he practised corporate litigation at Arnold & Porter and worked as a federal prosecutor in the US Department of Justice, where he played a leading role in the investigation and prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombers. Garland was appointed to the D.C. Circuit in March 1997 by President Bill Clinton, and served as its chief judge from 2013 to 2020.

President Barack Obama, a Democrat, nominated Garland to serve as an associate justice of the US Supreme Court in March 2016 to fill the vacancy created by the death of Antonin Scalia. However, the Republican Senate majority refused to hold a hearing or vote on his nomination. The unprecedented refusal of a Senate majority to consider the nomination was highly controversial. Garland's nomination lasted 293 days (the longest to date by far), and it expired on 3 January 2017, at the end of the 114th Congress. Eventually, President Donald Trump, a Republican, nominated Neil Gorsuch to the vacant seat and the Republican Senate majority confirmed him.

Starting in 1993, as principal associate to the Deputy Attorney General, he oversaw three high-profile domestic-terrorism cases:

Attorney General

President Joe Biden nominated Garland as US Attorney General in January 2021.[1] He was confirmed by the Senate and took office in March of that same year.

In April 2021, Russia imposed sanctions against Garland, including prohibiting him from entering Russia. This was in retaliation for US expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats, a sanction imposed by the United States against Russia for its SolarWinds hack, aggression against Ukraine, and interference in the 2020 United States presidential election.[2]

In May 2021, the DOJ appealed in part a ruling by Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District Court for the District of Columbia to make public most of a DOJ memo detailing former Attorney General William Barr's legal rationale for clearing President Trump of obstruction of justice in the Special Counsel investigation.[3]

On 1 July 2021, Garland imposed a moratorium on all federal executions pending a review of relevant policies and procedures, a move that was consistent with Biden's pledge to push for legislation to end the federal death penalty. The Trump administration resumed federal executions in 2019, and executed 13 inmates in total, the first in 17 years and including the first woman in 70 years.[4]

In September 2021, the DOJ in a memo limited the use of chokeholds and carotid restraints by federal officers during arrests, prohibiting such tactics unless deadly force is authorised (i.e., unless the officer reasonably believes "that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person"). The memo also limited the use of unannounced ("no-knock") entries when executing warrants, directing officers to knock-and-announce except "where an agent has reasonable grounds to believe that knocking and announcing the agent’s presence would create an imminent threat of physical violence to the agent and/or another person."[5]

On 21 October 2021, the US House of Representatives voted to refer Steve Bannon, the adviser to former President Donald Trump, to the DOJ for criminal contempt of Congress due to defying a subpoena from the House's January 6 Select Committee over claims of executive privilege. After Speaker Nancy Pelosi certified the contempt referral, it was sent to the US Attorney for DC, who will then decide whether to send the referral to a Grand Jury for indictment, with Garland having the final say.[178] Garland told lawmakers that the Justice Department "will apply the facts and the law and make a decision" when considering a criminal contempt referral for Bannon. He stated that "the US Department of Justice will do what it always does in such circumstances, we'll apply the facts and the law and make a decision, consistent with the principles of prosecution."[6]

In November 2022, days after Donald Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign, Garland appointed Jack Smith to serve as Special Counsel for the investigations of Trump.[7]

Pan Am bombing

In December 2022, the FBI arrested Lockerbie bombing suspect Abu Agila Masud in Libya, and brought him to the United States. Masud appeared in court in Washington DC on 12 December 2022. In a DOJ press release, Attorney General Merrick Garland said:

“Nearly 34 years ago, 270 people, including 190 Americans, were tragically killed in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Since then, American and Scottish law enforcement have worked tirelessly to identify, find, and bring to justice the perpetrators of this horrific attack.
"Those relentless efforts over the past three decades led to the indictment and arrest of a former Libyan intelligence operative for his alleged role in building the bomb used in the attack. The defendant is currently in US custody and is facing charges in the United States. This is an important step forward in our mission to honor the victims and pursue justice on behalf of their loved ones.”[8]

If convicted, Abu Agila Masud faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. However, former Attorney General William Barr has said that Masud should face the death penalty.[9]


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Call for US to give update on fourth Lockerbie suspectArticle18 December 2022Kathleen NuttFormer Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill: "Britain and America know everything. I want the UK and US to be more open. Libya have offered up Abu Agila Masud. But Masud is smaller beer. The Lord Advocate should find out what progress is being made on bringing Abdullah Senussi to court."
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