DES MOINES — A former law clerk for Merrick Garland, the judge nominated by President Barack Obama to fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, was in Iowa this week to make the case that Garland’s nomination should receive a hearing in the U.S. Senate.
Eric Berger, an associate dean and law professor at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, visited Iowa as a guest of the progressive advocacy group Progress Iowa. Berger clerked for Garland in 2003 and 2004, while Garland was a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
Garland’s nomination has not received a hearing in the Senate, where Republicans control the chamber and have said the court vacancy should be filled by the next president, after this fall’s presidential election.
Iowa’s longtime Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which holds hearings on Supreme Court nominees. Grassley has joined with Senate GOP leadership, saying the decision is not an indictment of Garland but that he thinks voters should have a say in the nomination by who they choose to be president.
Democrats have hammered on the Supreme Court vacancy as they seek to unseat Grassley, who is up for re-election this fall. Grassley, who has served in Congress since 1981, is being challenged by Democrat Patty Judge, former Iowa lieutenant governor and agriculture secretary.
“I’m calling on Sen. Grassley to hold hearings and schedule a vote (on Garland’s nomination),” Berger said. “The people deserve an opportunity to go through the process.”
Berger praised Garland, calling him meticulous, analytical and thorough, and a judge who does not let political ideology interfere with his rulings.
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“He will be incredibly nonpartisan. He won’t let his personal politics filter into it,” Berger said. “To that extent, he is a very special judge.”
Berger said if Republicans stand their ground through the election, he hopes the next president — especially if it is presumptive Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton — will consider Garland for the vacancy. Berger said his preference, however, would be for Senate Republicans, including Grassley, to agree to start the nomination process now.
“I think (Garland) is exactly the kind of person we should have on the Supreme Court,” Berger said. “He has all the qualities you would want in a judge.”