Howard University School of Law students received a special visit from Supreme Court nominee Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2016.
The visit was in celebration of Constitution Day, which this year focused on the theme of citizenship and a commemoration of the 1866 Civil Rights Act. The “Armchair Conversation” hosted by Dean Danielle Holley-Walker centered around the importance of public service, success in law school and the judge’s personal journey in the legal field.
On March 16, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Judge Garland to serve as an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court. To date, the Senate has not held a hearing or vote on his nomination. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Judge Garland clerked for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan. Judge Garland practiced corporate litigation at Arnold & Porter and then went on to work as a federal prosecutor in the Justice Department. In that role he helped lead the investigation and prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombers.
When asked about what drove his decision to attend law school, Judge Garland said that after realizing he wanted to pursue a career in social sciences, he said, “I always wanted to do public service.” He knew that a law degree would afford him the opportunity to reach that goal, although he didn’t know exactly how at the beginning. Looking back at his first year of law school, Judge Garland spoke about his excitement to learn about the law and the possibility of working in public service. He also said, “My main feeling upon entering law school was fear.” He went on to tell the class of 2019, in particular, that the first year of law school is the hardest but that it gets easier. “Don’t feel too bad if things do seem a little difficult in the beginning . . . anxiety is perfectly normal,” he said.
When speaking about volunteering and public service opportunities, Judge Garland stressed, “the needs of the community at large.” He went on to say, “I find it very important to devote some part of your life to something other than the law, something other than your career.” Dean Holley-Walker noted that Judge Garland recently delivered a graduation address at an elementary school. In advising students on how to make time for public service and volunteering opportunities, he said, “It’s necessary.”
Khaair Morrison, a second year student at Howard University School of Law, had the opportunity to introduce Judge Garland to the law school community. Morrison reflected that, “In the midst of racial turmoil in this country and in the midst of court decisions that have only exasperated police and community relations, we had an opportunity to hear from a man who can change that. He seems like a man of thought and someone who understands the dimensions of a court’s decision and how it affects us all.”
During the conversation, Dean Holley-Walker noted that the Judge Garland has been a “great friend” to the Howard University School of Law. For many years he attended the judicial reception sponsored by the Howard Law Journal. Some years, he would bring his good friend Judge David Tatel along with him and they would fellowship with the journal members and offer career advice. With the help of Judge Garland, the law school hosted the judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit as they heard three oral arguments in November 2014.
Morrison concluded his reflection by describing the judge as, “A man who is dedicated to public service, his family and the world at large.”
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