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Potential Supreme Court pick Garland could find foes on left
In 2008, he agreed to deny a rehearing to a claim from detainees that they should be able to see the U.S. evidence against them, saying he did not want to delay a Supreme Court ruling that ultimately resolved the case.
His fans say Garland's skill as a consensus-builder could be a major selling point for the Supreme Court, pointing to an opinion he wrote in 2008 criticizing the government's evidence against a detainee.
The opinion concluded that President George W. Bush did not have sufficient cause to continue holding 37-year-old Huzaifa Parhat, a member of the Uighur group that opposed the Chinese government. Garland mocked the government's evidence that Parhat was fighting U.S. forces: three pieces of paper that cited identical information.
"The fact that the government has 'said it thrice' does not make an allegation true," Garland wrote.
Sentelle, the conservative Reagan appointee, along with a new Bush appointee on the court, joined Garland in the opinion. The Bush Justice Department did not appeal the decision.
As a young assistant U.S. attorney, Garland handled the drug investigation of then-D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, and later, as a top criminal division official in the Clinton Justice Department, he oversaw the convictions of Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.
That experience is a potential negative among a handful of liberals, who assert that Garland does not often overturn convictions when police and prosecutors' propriety is questioned.
Some of the same concerns were raised about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also a D.C. Circuit judge and former prosecutor, who has since become known as a relatively liberal justice.
Carrie Severino of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network said Garland may be far more liberal than his rulings indicate because he has not yet publicly staked out his position on issues such as abortion.
"But of those the president could nominate, we could do a lot worse than Merrick Garland," Severino said. "He's the best scenario we could hope for to bring the tension and the politics in the city down a notch for the summer."