Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland talks Jewish roots

Merrick Garland, chosen this week as President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, said it was his Jewish grandparents, who came to the United States after fleeing anti-Semitism in Russia, who paved the way for his nomination to the country’s highest court.

“My family deserves much of the credit for the path that led me here. My grandparents left the Pale of Settlement at the border of western Russia and Eastern Europe in the early 1900s, fleeing anti-Semitism and hoping to make a better life for their children in America,” he said on March 16 in the White House Rose Garden, choking up as he accepted Obama’s nomination announced earlier that morning.

Garland, 63, is the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. A Chicago native, Garland has worked in Washington since the 1970s, first as a Supreme Court clerk, then a private lawyer, an assistant U.S. attorney and, since 1997, a federal judge.

Merrick Garland at the White House on March 16 photo/jta-getty images-chip somedevilla

Garland and his family are members of Temple Sinai, a Reform synagogue in Washington, D.C., according to Religion News Service.

Garland said his father, who ran a business from the basement of his family home, impressed upon him the “importance of hard work and fairness,” and his mother’s volunteer work taught him the value of community service.

“For me there can be no higher public service than serving as a member of the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Garland.

Obama called for the Senate to confirm Garland in a timely fashion, so he could sit with the court in the fall. He would fill the Supreme Court seat held by Antonin Scalia until his death last month.

Republicans have vowed to block any Obama nominee, saying the vacancy should be filled by the next president.

“I simply ask Republicans in the Senate to give him a fair hearing and then a vote up or down,” Obama said.

Garland is a graduate of Harvard Law School and clerked for Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. in 1987. He married fellow Harvard graduate Lynn Rosenman in a Jewish ceremony at the Harvard Club in New York.

If confirmed, Garland would be the fourth Jewish justice on the nation’s highest court. The other three justices are Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer. — jta