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Merrick Garland

Also Known As Garland, Merrick Brian Garland

United States Attorney General

Merrick Garland's profile picture

Merrick Brian Garland is an American lawyer and jurist serving since March 2021 as the 86th United States attorney general. He previously served as a U.S. circuit judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1997 to 2021.

A native of the Chicago area, 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 practiced corporate litigation at Arnold & Porter and worked as a federal prosecutor in the Department of Justice, where he supervised 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 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 January 3, 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.

President Joe Biden nominated Garland as attorney general in January 2021. He was confirmed by the Senate and took office in March of that same year.

After graduating from law school, Garland spent two years as a judicial law clerk, first for Judge Henry Friendly of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (New York City) from 1977 to 1978 and then for Justice William J. Brennan Jr. of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1978 to 1979. After his clerkships, Garland spent two years as a special assistant to U.S. Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti.

After the Carter administration ended in 1981, Garland entered private practice at the law firm Arnold & Porter. Garland mostly practiced corporate litigation, and was made a partner in 1985. In Motor Vehicles Manufacturers Ass'n v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. (1983) Garland acted as counsel to an insurance company suing to reinstate an unpopular automatic seat belt mandate. After winning the case in both the District of Columbia Circuit Court and the Supreme Court, Garland wrote an 87-page Harvard Law Review article describing the way courts use a heightened "hard look" standard of review and scope of review when an agency chooses deregulation, with increasing focus on the fidelity of the agencies' actions to congressional intent. In 1985–86, while at Arnold & Porter, Garland was a lecturer at Harvard Law School, where he taught antitrust law. He also published an article in the Yale Law Journal urging a broader application of antitrust immunity to state and local governments.

Desiring to return to public service and do more trial work, in 1989 Garland became an Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia. As a line prosecutor, Garland represented the government in criminal cases ranging from drug trafficking to complex public corruption matters. Garland was one of the three principal prosecutors who handled the investigation into Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry's possession of cocaine.

Garland then briefly returned to Arnold & Porter, working there from 1992 to 1993.In 1993, Garland joined the new Clinton administration as deputy assistant attorney general in the Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice. The following year, Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick – a key mentor of Garland's – asked Garland to be her principal associate deputy attorney general.

In that role, Garland's responsibilities included the supervision of high-profile domestic-terrorism cases, including the Oklahoma City bombing, Ted Kaczynski (also known as the "Unabomber"), and the Atlanta Olympics bombings.

Garland insisted on being sent to Oklahoma City in the aftermath of the attack, in order to examine the crime scene and oversee the investigation in preparation for the prosecution. He represented the government at the preliminary hearings of the two main defendants, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. Garland offered to lead the trial team, but could not because he was needed at the Justice Department headquarters. Instead, he helped pick the team and supervised it from Washington, D.C., where he was involved in major decisions, including the choice to seek the death penalty for McVeigh and Nichols. Garland won praise for his work on the case from the Republican Governor of Oklahoma, Frank Keating.

Garland served as co-chair of the administrative law section of the District of Columbia Bar from 1991 to 1994. He is also a member of the American Law Institute.

In 2003, Garland was elected to the Harvard Board of Overseers, completing the unexpired term of Deval Patrick, who had stepped down from the board. Garland served as president of the overseers for 2009–10

Early Life

Merrick Brian Garland was born on November 13, 1952, in Chicago.

 He grew up in the north Chicago border suburb of Lincolnwood. His mother Shirley (née Horwitz; 1925–2016) was a director of volunteer services at Chicago's Council for Jewish Elderly (now called CJE Senior Life). His father, Cyril Garland (1915–2000) ,headed Garland Advertising, a small business run out of the family home. Garland was raised in Conservative Judaism, the family name having been changed from Garfinkel several generations earlier. His grandparents left the Pale of Settlement in the Russian Empire in the early 20th century, fleeing antisemitic pogroms and seeking a better life for their children in the United States. Two of his grandmother's siblings were later murdered in the Holocaust. He is a second cousin of six-term Iowa Governor and former Ambassador to China Terry Branstad.

Garland attended Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois, where he was president of the student council, acted in theatrical productions, and was a member of the debate team. He graduated in 1970 as the class valedictorian. Garland was also a Presidential Scholar and National Merit Scholar.

After high school, Garland studied social studies at Harvard University. He initially wanted to become a physician, but soon decided to become a lawyer instead. He allied himself with his future boss, Jamie Gorelick when he was elected the only freshman member of a campus-wide committee on which Gorelick also served. During his college summers, Garland volunteered as a speechwriter to Congressman Abner J. Mikva. After President Jimmy Carter appointed Mikva to the D.C. Circuit, Mikva would rely on Garland when hiring law clerks. At Harvard, Garland wrote news articles and theater reviews for the Harvard Crimson and worked as a Quincy House tutor. Garland wrote his 235-page honors thesis on industrial mergers in Britain in the 1960s. Garland graduated from Harvard in 1974 with an A.B., summa cum laude, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Garland then attended Harvard Law School, where he was a member of the Harvard Law Review. Garland ran for the presidency of the Law Review but lost to Susan Estrich, so he served as an articles editor instead. As an articles editor, Garland assigned himself to edit a submission by U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan on the topic of the role of state constitutions in safeguarding individual rights. This correspondence with Brennan later contributed to his winning a clerkship with the justice. Garland graduated from Harvard Law in 1977 with a Juris Doctor magna cum laude.

Garland and his wife, Lynn, were married at the Harvard Club in Manhattan in September 1987. Lynn Rosenman Garland's grandfather, Samuel Irving Rosenman, was a justice of the New York Supreme Court (a trial-level court) and a special counsel to presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. She graduated from the Brearley School in Manhattan and cum laude from Harvard University, and received a Master of Science degree in operations management from the MIT Sloan School of Management. Her father, Robert Rosenman, was a partner in the New York law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore. As of June 2018, she advised government and nonprofit groups on voting systems security and accuracy issues. The couple lives together in Bethesda, Maryland.

Garland and his wife have two daughters, Rebecca and Jessica; both are graduates of Yale University. Justice Elena Kagan hired Jessica Garland, a 2019 graduate of Yale Law School, as one of her law clerks in early July 2020, before Biden's election and Garland's appointment, to serve as a law clerk in 2022–2023. The Supreme Court said that "in light of the potential for actual or apparent conflicts of interest," Jessica Garland will not serve as Kagan's law clerk while her father remains as attorney general. Garland took part in the ceremony when his daughter Rebecca married Xan Tanner in June 2018.

Financial disclosure forms in 2016 indicated that Garland's net worth at the time was between $6 million and $23M. As of 2021, his net worth was estimated by Forbes at $8.6-33M.

Garland is partially colorblind, so he uses a list to match his suits and ties.


  • Graduated : Skokie - Niles West High School


  • United States Attorney General - American lawyer and jurist serving