Obama announced Merrick Garland as his nominee for the vacant Supreme Court seat. Garland is currently the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and previously held a top position at the Justice Department.

Announcing the decision today, Obama called Garland "one of America's sharpest legal minds" and "someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness and excellence."

In an email to the White House mailing list, Obama said he made his decision based on three characteristics. First, the nominee must possess "an independent mind... and an unquestionable mastery of law." Second, the nominee must understand the limits of his role. Third, he must have the "life experience" to be able to connect his job to life outside of the courtroom.

Garland's considerable life experience includes clerking for Justice William Brennan, and his "mastery of law" comes from Harvard Law School, where he graduated with honors. Also working in his favor is his centrist voting record: He rarely sides with defendants in criminal appeals, but usually rules in favor of the plaintiff in civil rights cases.
photo: Reuters

If confirmed by the Senate, Garland will fill the seat formerly held by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Many Senate Republicans, however, hope to block the nomination. Some argue that it is "common practice" to hold off on lifetime appointments during an election year. The Republican National Committee went so far as to create task force to run attack ads against Democrats who move to confirm.

In his email to White House staff, Obama urged the Senate to move forward with the confirmation.

"In putting forward a nominee today, I am fulfilling my constitutional duty. I’m doing my job," he wrote. "I hope that our Senators will do their jobs, and move quickly to consider my nominee. That is what the Constitution dictates, and that’s what the American people expect and deserve from their leaders."