Not only are the differences in the White House like night and day, but the same can be said for Merrick Garland’s Justice Department. Some questioned why President Biden would choose Merrick Garland for the position, given that he has spent the last several years on the bench, but that is becoming clearer every day. As a judge, Merrick Garland was touted for his fairness and modest rulings. He did not lean too far left, nor did he lean too far right. That was the reason President Obama chose him for the Supreme Court. Had Garland made it to the highest bench in the land, we would not have him as attorney general now. No matter how much we may be disappointed by things in life, those things happen for a reason. In this case, Garland is already proving that he belongs in the role of attorney general.
When Garland announced the DOJ investigation into pattern and practice in policing in Minneapolis, he did so with genuine depth of feeling. Shortly thereafter, he announced a similar inquiry into the death of Breonna Taylor. As Politico reported, these moves wipe out the old practice put in place by the last administration restricting these types of investigations, which they claimed “were bad for officer morale.” What about the morale of the families left behind by their loved ones’ deaths? Those feelings apparently do not count for black and brown people. Garland has no intention of following their lead.
After announcing his pattern and practice investigations, Garland took another step that many did not expect. He filed criminal charges against the three white men who gunned down Ahmaud Arbery for federal hate crimes and civil rights violations. Immediately after that announcement, the DOJ announced criminal indictments for federal civil rights crimes against Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane in the death of George Floyd. Finally, it appears that people will get justice when officers or racists think they can behave any way they like when the victim is a black man. Garland’s DOJ is showing them differently.
According to Politico, senior staff attorneys had been teeing up these investigations in anticipation of Garland’s appointment. Several DOJ officials who spoke with Politico anonymously said that given the speed at which these investigations and charges came, the work might have even begun under the prior administration. They knew the Trump administration would never pursue these charges, but they had them ready to go, just in case. They made the correct bet, as Garland has jumped all over them.
Given the current racial climate in the country, we are fortunate to have Merrick Garland leading the Department of Justice. Unlike both Barr and Sessions, Garland is proving himself to be the attorney general of the people not of the presidency. Both former attorneys general fought fiercely to stall any investigations into police, regardless of what they had done. Garland is the opposite. The people deserve police who protect the safety of all citizens, and Garland will ensure that happens.
Shirley is a former entertainment writer and has worked in the legal field for over 25 years