Judge Neil Gorsuch’s first call after being nominated was to Judge Merrick Garland, “out of respect.”
If there is a relationship of esteem between the two, it may have something of a history. In 2002, as a Washington litigator before his elevation to the Tenth Circuit, Gorsuch wrote a piece deploring how Senators had stalled the nominations to the D.C. Circuit of Garland and another nominee who was to become well-known:
…some of the most impressive judicial nominees are grossly mistreated. Take Merrick Garland and John Roberts, two appointees to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. Both were Supreme Court clerks. Both served with distinction at the Department of Justice. Both are widely considered to be among the finest lawyers of their generation. Garland, a Clinton appointee, was actively promoted by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. Roberts, a Bush nominee, has the backing of Seth Waxman, President Bill Clinton’s solicitor general. But neither Garland nor Roberts has chosen to live his life as a shirker; both have litigated controversial cases involving “hot-button” issues.
As a result, Garland was left waiting for 18 months before being confirmed over the opposition of 23 senators. Roberts, nominated almost a year ago, still waits for a hearing — and sees no end to the waiting in sight. In fact, this is the second time around for Roberts: he was left hanging without a vote by the Senate at the end of the first Bush administration. So much for promoting excellence in today’s confirmation process.