Danielle Gray: I clerked for Merrick Garland. Our next attorney general is a servant through and through.
“Joe Biden’s pick for attorney general is a model for how to practice law at its highest level and still remain a servant to the American people.”
Danielle Gray published an editorial praising President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for Attorney General, Merrick Garland. Gray clerked for Judge Garland in the 2003-2004 term and writes about how she is confident “that Judge Garland and his all-star team will uphold the core mission of the department [of justice], renew its focus on enforcing our nation’s laws, and tackle the most critical issues.”
Read the full op-ed below.
USA Today: OPINION – I clerked for Merrick Garland. Our next attorney general is a servant through and through.
[By Danielle Gray, 1/15/21]
In September 2001, only days after terrorists attacked the nation, I boarded a flight to Washington, D.C., to visit the chambers of Judge Merrick Garland to interview for a position as his law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. I was nervous, though it was hard to pinpoint exactly why — a visit to the capital in the aftermath of violence aimed at government buildings, or the fact that this was the first judge I had ever spoken to in my life.
Fortunately, Judge Garland immediately put me at ease. That initial conversation was only the beginning of what I would learn repeatedly over the next two decades about the man President-elect Joe Biden has selected as our next attorney general: his unwavering commitment to our system of justice, his abiding sense of integrity and fairness, and his joy in public service.
A devotion to the rule of law
My interview obviously began with a discussion of the 9/11 attacks. Garland explained to me that he thought it was essential that the courts continue their work and signal to the world that terrorism could not stop democratic institutions from functioning.
To him, continuing to administer justice and uphold the rule of law was a critical component of our response. And that was why he was in a mostly empty courthouse that day, buried under a stack of briefs assembled on his desk and talking to a 23-year-old law student. I have reflected upon that conversation numerous times over the last several days.
I knew then from my research that the judge had prosecuted one of the most significant acts of terrorism in American history, bringing Timothy McVeigh to justice for his heinous attack on a federal building in Oklahoma City. McVeigh is clearly an inspiration to some of the white supremacist and white nationalist ideology that has proven so dangerous and so intractable today. In the next administration, the Department of Justice appears to be ramping up its efforts to battle hate groups and ferret out acts like those we witnessed last week on Capitol Hill. I can think of no one better leading the charge.
We also spent considerable time discussing public service. We talked about work that I was doing with a professor on the shoddy state of election machinery in minority communities in Florida during the 2000 election, research aimed at assisting Congress with reform proposals. Garland told me stories about voter suppression he learned from a mentor, the late William Coleman, one of the African American lawyers who helped to win Brown v. Board of Education. We also discussed some of the Voting Rights Act preclearance cases he presided over on the court. I recall being impressed by his interest in and understanding of tactics to deny the vote, particularly in African American communities.
A fair and thorough role model
During the clerkship, Garland was a model for how to practice law at its highest level and how to carry oneself as a public servant. The care and thought that he would put into a handwritten petition from a prisoner matched his effort in appeals written by fancy law firms. Even today, I strive to emulate his insistence on analyzing a case from every angle and his willingness to consider each argument in its most charitable light. And during my own time in public service, I thought daily about whether my contributions were making the world better — and worked a little harder, as he would, if I had any doubts about that.
After the clerkship, Garland’s mentorship and example continued. The judge has always been a supportive career coach to his law clerks — and his guidance was particularly prized by those of us who chose to go work at federal agencies, for elected officials, as public defenders, or as local prosecutors. Because for Garland, there is no greater honor than working hard on behalf of the American people and having the privilege to serve.
As an alum of the Department of Justice, I know that the next administration has its work cut out for it. I am confident that Judge Garland and his all-star team will uphold the core mission of the department, renew its focus on enforcing our nation’s laws, and tackle the most critical issues — chief among them, civil rights enforcement, criminal justice reform, and voting rights preservation. And the American people will have the confidence that their attorney general is an honorable man who, above all, seeks to serve them.
Post based on press release from Biden Transition Team to Zennie62Media, Inc.
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