Merrick Garland Biography

(86th United States Attorney General)

Birthday: November 13, 1952 (Scorpio)

Born In: Chicago, Illinois, United States

American lawyer and jurist Merrick Garland is the incumbent and 86th United States Attorney General and assumed office in March 2021. The Chicago native has previously been a US circuit judge of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1997 to 2021 and has also served as its chief judge. A Harvard alumnus, he started his career assisting Judge Henry Friendly and Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. He also practiced at Arnold & Porter and has been a federal prosecutor in the Department of Justice. Though nominated to the Supreme Court by former president Barack Obama, to fill in for the deceased Antonin Scalia, Garland could not take over due to the refusal of the Republican Senate majority to vote or allow a hearing. He was eventually nominated to the position of the US Attorney General by President Joe Biden in January 2021.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Merrick Brian Garland

Age: 70 Years, 70 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Lynn Garland (m. 1987)

father: Cyril Garland

mother: Shirley Garland

siblings: Heidi Garland, Jill Roter

children: Jessica Garland, Rebecca Garland

Born Country: United States

Judges Lawyers

U.S. State: Illinois

More Facts

education: Harvard University

Childhood, Early Life & Education

Merrick Garland was born Merrick Brian Garland, on November 13, 1952, in Chicago, Illinois, US. While his mother, Shirley (née Horwitz), worked at Chicago's Council for Jewish Elderly (now known as CJE SeniorLife), his father, Cyril Garland, headed the family business, Garland Advertising.

He is the grandson of Jewish immigrants who migrated from the western Russian Empire (to which Jews were restricted back then), to escape the wave of anti-Semitism. Garland initially attended the Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois, and was the president of the student council there. He also actively participated in plays and was part of the debate team.

In 1970, he graduated as the class valedictorian. Garland was a National Merit Scholar and was awarded a Presidential Scholarship, too.

He later joined Harvard College, from where he graduated with a bachelor's degree (A.B., summa cum laude) in social studies in 1974. He was also named to the Phi Beta Kappa. At Harvard, Garland often penned articles and reviews for the Harvard Crimson. He was also a Quincy House tutor there.

In 1977, he earned his JD (magna cum laude) from Harvard Law School. He was also the articles editor of the Harvard Law Review there. Interestingly, while he initially aspired to become a physician, he later became a lawyer.

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Early Career

Soon after finishing law school, Merrick Garland clerked for Judge Henry J. Friendly of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1977 to 1978 and for US Supreme Court Associate Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. from 1978 to 1979.

From 1979 to 1981, Garland served US Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti as a special assistant. In 1981, he joined the law firm Arnold & Porter in Washington, DC, where he partnered and practiced civil and criminal litigation, administrative law, and antitrust law.

From 1985 to 1986, Garland taught antitrust law at Harvard Law School. He wrote and published law review articles on administrative and antitrust law.

From 1989 to 1992, Garland was an assistant US attorney for the District of Columbia. He then joined the Department of Justice in the administration of former President Bill Clinton.

From 1994, he served as the principal associate deputy US attorney general and was in-charge of significant domestic terrorism prosecutions, including the Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols case for the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. He also oversaw the prosecution of the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, whose bombing campaigns in the US left several people dead and injured.

Federal Judicial Career & Supreme Court Nomination

In 1995, Merrick Garland was nominated by Clinton to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. However, a dispute followed soon, over whether to fill the open seat, which eventually led the Senate Republicans to counter the nomination.

In 1997, Garland was, however, confirmed in a 76-23 Senate vote. During his tenure, he became known as a judicial moderate. In February 2013, he was promoted to chief judge.

That year, in a significant ruling, Garland supported the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Apparently, the ACLU asked for documents related to the use of drone strikes in counterterrorism operations, from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

In 2015, Garland upheld the Federal Election Commission’s enforcement of a statute prohibiting federal contractors from contributing to political campaigns. After the death of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in early 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Garland as the replacement in March that year.

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However, Senate Republicans refused to vote or hold hearings on the nomination. They wanted a conservative judge. Soon after Trump became the US president, he nominated conservative judge Neil Gorsuch for the open Supreme Court position.

From 2017 to 2020, Garland served as the chair of the Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States. In February 2020, he quit as the chief judge of the District of Columbia Circuit but continued to work as a judge in the court.

As an Attorney General

After Democrat Joe Biden took over as the US president in the 2020 presidential election, he (as president-elect) nominated Merrick Garland for the position of the US Attorney General. On March 10, 2021, the Senate confirmed the appointment by a 70-30 vote.

On March 11 that year, Merrick Garland became the 86th Attorney General of the US. In his capacity as the country’s chief law enforcement officer, Garland oversees the US Justice Department’s countless employees, who work in the US and in over 50 countries globally.

During his tenure, Garland doubled his department’s workforce to focus on the right to vote. He has also stressed on the protection of civil rights.

He has also played a huge role in Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 US presidential election and the unprecedented 2021 United States Capitol attack, in which a mob of Trump’s supporters attacked Washington, DC’s US Capitol Building. In November 2022, soon after Trump declared his 2024 presidential campaign, Garland named Jack Smith as special counsel for the investigations of Trump.

Other Interests

Merrick Garland was co-chair of the District of Columbia Bar’s administrative law section from 1991 to 1994. He has also been part of the American Law Institute.

In 2003, he was named to the Harvard Board of Overseers, thus filling in to complete the remaining term of Deval Patrick, who had quit the board. From 2009 to 2010, Garland served as the president of the Overseers.

Personal Life

In September 1987, Garland married Lynn Rosenman at the Harvard Club in Manhattan. Lynn’s grandfather, Samuel Irving Rosenman, was New York Supreme Court justice and had worked as a special counsel to presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.

Lynn is a Harvard University alumna and has an MS degree in operations management from the MIT Sloan School of Management. Lynn’s father, Robert Rosenman, worked as a partner in the New York-based law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

Lynn worked as an advisor for government and non-profit groups in areas such as voting systems security and accuracy. Garland and his wife live in a $2.1million home in Bethesda, Maryland.

The couple has two daughters, Rebecca and Jessica, both Yale University graduates. Jessica later attended Cambridge for grad school, while Rebecca attended Harvard Business School to obtain an MBA degree. Being partially colorblind, Garland uses a list to match his ties and suits.

See the events in life of Merrick Garland in Chronological Order

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