Merrick Garland on Civil Rights



Improve hate crime reporting; prioritize prosecutions

Amid reports of a rising number of hate crimes against Asian Americans, Garland announced he is launching a 30-day "expedited review" into how the Justice Department can bolster its efforts to prosecute hate crimes and improve data collection. Garland said he wants to find ways to improve reporting of hate crimes, "prioritize criminal investigations and prosecutions," and work with civil authorities to address cases of bias which may not rise to the statutory definition of a hate crime.
Source: Reuters, "Hate Crimes," 2021 Biden Administration , Mar 30, 2021

Spotty record on supporting LGBT protests and free speech

Garland's history with the LGBT community is not extensive but it is spotty. Garland joined a decision that upheld an FCC action against the operator of a low-power radio broadcaster serving the gay community. And he joined then D.C. Circuit Judge John Roberts Jr. in a decision rejecting police liability for misconduct by officers who sprayed a chemical deterrent on members of a pro-gay protest group during President George W. Bush's first inaugural parade.

Last June, the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality is legal in all 50 states under the Fourteenth Amendment. The 5-4 ruling just before many Pride Parade weekends were about to kick off, most notably in New York City. The ruling overrode bans in 13 states against gay marriage, enforcing the law of equal rights all across the United States. The Supreme Court justices found that under the 14th Amendment, all states must recognize same-sex couples and allow same-sex unions.

Source: Heavy.com on 2016 SCOTUS confirmation hearings , Mar 16, 2016

Let civil rights plaintiffs receive appropriate day in Court

Judge Garland has not been called upon to decide many civil-rights-related claims of great significance. It is difficult to label him as inclined either towards or against such claims, given that the panels on which he sat in such cases were generally unanimous.

The unanimous rulings in which Judge Garland participated similarly reflect a concern that civil rights plaintiffs receive an appropriate day in Court. E.g., Steele v. Schafer (2008, per Garland, reinstating hostile work environment and retaliation claims); Harris v. Gonzales (2007, Garland joining opinion, reversing judgment that employee could not establish lack of notice of filing deadline for civil rights suit).

Judge Garland also authored an opinion narrowly reading states' sovereign immunity from suit under the civil rights laws (Barbour v. WMATA, 2004, joined by then-Judge John Roberts, holding that WMATA waived sovereign immunity from suit by accepting funds under Rehabilitation Act).

Source: SCOTUSblog.com on 2016 SCOTUS confirmation hearings , Apr 26, 2010

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Page last updated: Sep 01, 2021