Garland returned to his home turf — steps from the U.S. Capitol, where Garland is amid a whirlwind series of courtesy meetings with senators — to honor local law firms that have provided a significant amount of free legal services in the last year.
Without pro bono legal assistance for poor families in Washington, Garland said, “the promise of equal justice rings hollow.”
The annual breakfast ceremony honors law firms at which at least 40 percent of all attorneys have dedicated 50 or more hours to free legal services. Garland commended 33 local firms for meeting that benchmark, but said the numbers should be even greater in a city with so many lawyers.
Although Garland did not touch on the fight over his nomination to the high court, U.S. District Judge Amy B. Jackson thanked Garland in her introduction for squeezing the ceremony into what she joked was a “somewhat busy schedule.”
Republican leaders on Capitol Hill have showed no sign of changing their position that the court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia should not be filled until after a new president is elected. Since his nomination, Garland has met for sit-down meetings with 37 senators but had not spoken publicly until Thursday. Only two Republicans currently support holding hearings on his nomination.
His tenth meeting with a GOP senator, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, came Wednesday.
Graham announced in a tweet afterward that he had not changed his mind on Garland’s confirmation.
“I told him that I believe that the Scalia vacancy should be filled by the next president,” he said. “Judge Garland’s a fine man, but this should be done by the next president.”
Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.