What You Need To Know:

Federal Judge Merrick Garland returns today for the second and final day of his confirmation hearing as Attorney General of the United States before the Senate Judiciary Committee. President Biden’s nominee to head the Justice Department opened the hearing with a prepared statement, promising if confirmed,

“I am not the president’s lawyer,” he said. “I am the United States’ lawyer.”

Freshman Senator Jon Ossoff of Georgia noted that today is the one-year anniversary of the Ahmaud Arbery Murder. The 25-year old Black man was pursued by three white men while jogging in Glynn County, Georgia. Ossoff said without pressure from the NAACP, charges wouldn’t have been filed in the case. Ossoff asked whether Garland would launch more investigations of local police departments. 

Judge Garland said the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division could investigate police, with remedies including consent decrees, criminal prosecution of abusive officers and funding for police departments to reform themselves. He also pointed out that good police officers would welcome reforms to weed out the bad.

As many Democratic Senators noted, Judge Garland’s appearance is five years behind schedule. Garland was President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee to fill the seat following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The Republican majority Judiciary Committee refused to conduct hearings necessary to advance the vote to the entire Senate. Then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he considered any appointment by a president in his last year as “null and void.” Unlike the last months of the Trump presidency, he said the next Supreme Court Justice should be chosen by the next president, following the 2016 election.

Judge Garland returns today to hear testimonies from character witnesses before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Committee Chair, Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois said, “fingers crossed,” a confirmation vote will be held Monday, March 1.