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Barnes attorney worked with SCOTUS nominee on OKC bombing trials

March 17, 2016

When federal Judge Merrick Garland was tapped as the nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States, Indiana attorney Larry Mackey remembered his former boss as a “great guy.”

Mackey, partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, was a member of the prosecution teams in the Oklahoma City bombing trials, serving as chief deputy in the Timothy McVeigh trial and lead prosecutor for the Terry Nichols trial. At that time, both Garland and Mackey were federal prosecutors at the U.S. Department of Justice.  

In fact, Garland headed the Oklahoma City prosecution in the initial stages. He was in the city hours after the explosion, led the early part of the investigation and was present when McVeigh and Nichols were arrested and appeared in federal court.

Mackey was interviewed by Garland to join the prosecution team but when the Indiana University Maurer School of Law graduate realized he was being considered for the first chair, he demurred, explaining he was more second chair material. Garland later told Mackey he was the attorney for the job because he was willing to serve in a lower position. 

Although Mackey did not work especially closely with Garland, he did gain a lot of respect for the nominee.  

“Judge Garland is remarkably bright and insightful and from my vantage point he was a true leader when the country most needed one,” Mackey said.

Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, was selected by President Barack Obama to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The Chicago native earned his law degree at Harvard and joined the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 1997. Garland, 63, became chief judge in 2013.

Republicans have pledged to leave the seat empty until after the presidential election and said they won't even hold hearings on Garland's confirmation.

Obama said he chose Garland, an appeals court judge for more than 18 years, in part because he is "uniquely prepared to serve immediately."

Little known outside Washington, Garland has spent more than 35 years in the nation's capital, mainly in government jobs that have made him quite familiar to the justices and high-ranking officials in both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Garland has developed friendships and a stellar reputation that cross party lines. "He's one of my best friends. I think the world of him as a human being. I think he's an excellent judge," said Judge Laurence Silberman, a Reagan appointee and Garland colleague on the appeals court, who also was so close to Scalia that he spoke at Scalia's memorial service.

Obama passed over Garland twice in putting Sonia Sotomayor on the court in 2009 and Elena Kagan, a year later. Garland is the oldest nominee since Lewis Powell in 1971, and is older than three current justices — Chief Justice John Roberts, Sotomayor and Kagan.

He would blend in with the other justices to a remarkable degree. Like Roberts, Kagan and Justice Stephen Breyer, Garland spent a year as a Supreme Court clerk. He worked for Justice William Brennan. He and Roberts also worked for the same appeals court judge in New York, Henry Friendly.

In any other era, Garland's religion — he is Jewish — would have added to the court's diversity. But now, three justices are Jewish and five are Catholic.

In the White House Rose Garden Wednesday, Garland spoke of his grandparents, who came to the United States from Eastern Europe, and acknowledged his mother, who he said "is watching this on television and crying her eyes out."

Garland is married to Lynn Rosenman Garland and they have two daughters, Rebecca and Jessica, who are Yale graduates.

Garland's wealth was estimated in 2012 at between $7.1 million and $18.6 million, according to the most recently available financial disclosure form that judges file annually.

At the time, Garland owned significant stock holdings in several corporations with a history of court actions and lobbying contacts with Congress and federal agencies. Among Garland's holdings at the time were investments in pharmaceutical firms Pfizer Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb — each worth as much as $50,000 — stakes in General Mills, Inc. and General Electric Co. worth as much as $100,000 and an interest in Procter & Gamble Co. valued up to $250,000, according to the disclosure.

Garland's largest investments were a trust fund and U.S. Treasury notes, each worth between $1 million and $5 million. Garland also held bank accounts at a federal credit union, Citibank and Bank of America totaling between $215,000 and $500,000. Garland's disclosures since 2009 have also noted a property owned in New York City, but no details were provided about the property or its value.

Obama noted Wednesday that in his youth, Garland had amassed a comic-book collection that he sold to help pay for law school.

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