Austin lawyer Paul Schlaud, who spent one intense year working closely with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, praised the judge as hard-working, intelligent and “fundamentally decent.”
“The most important things about practicing law, I learned from working with him and watching him,” said Schlaud, who from 1999-2000 served as one of several law clerks for Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Texas Republicans, however, were far less impressed with President Barack Obama’s choice to fill the vacancy created by last month’s death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court’s conservative stalwart.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who has made the Scalia vacancy a focus of his presidential campaign, dismissed Garland as a “so-called moderate Democrat” who would side with the court’s four liberal justices.
“Make no mistake, if Garland were confirmed, he would side predictably with President Obama on critical issues such as undermining the Second Amendment, legalizing partial-birth abortion and propping up overreaching bureaucratic agencies like the EPA and the IRS,” Cruz said Wednesday in a statement.
Schlaud, who has donated to Obama’s campaigns, was among the typically fresh-out-of-law-school clerks who research cases, prepare the judge for oral arguments and help to draft opinions. It’s a close working relationship that allows clerks to get to know jurists in ways few others can.
Schlaud, 42, said he was impressed with the legal skills and knowledge of Garland, a 19-year member of the circuit court, serving the last three years as its chief justice.
“You would work so hard, and it was almost impossible to know the case better than he did. He’s really sharp,” said Schlaud, a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School who is now with the Austin law firm Reeves & Brightwell. “You would research as deeply as you possibly could, right? And he would push you, and you’d go back and find something more. He’s really thorough and really good.”
Garland’s lasting lesson, Schlaud said, was that excellence is obtained through “working really hard and researching really deeply, but always having an eye toward human decency and fairness.”
As reaction to the Garland nomination broke along typically partisan lines, Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa praised the judge as “immensely qualified to join our nation’s highest court, and he’s a centrist choice.”
“The Constitution dictates that the president nominate an appointee, and that the Senate do its job to consider the nominee. Americans expect and deserve nothing less,” Hinojosa said.
But Senate Republicans were holding firm Wednesday on their commitment to decline to hold confirmation hearings or vote on Obama’s nominee.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as is Cruz. Cornyn said Wednesday that allowing the next president to fill Scalia’s vacancy is the only way to ensure that Americans have a voice in the process.
“The next justice could change the ideological makeup of the court for a generation and fundamentally reshape American society in the process,” Cornyn said in a statement. “While the president has the constitutional authority to make a nomination to fill this vacancy, the Senate also has the authority and responsibility to determine how to move forward with it.”
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said blocking Garland’s nomination is the only way to ensure that Scalia is replaced by a like-minded justice.
“Americans have grown concerned about the role of the Supreme Court in America today, and because this is one of the pivotal issues in the current presidential election, Americans should have the opportunity to vote for a president who will fill this vacancy,” Abbott said.