After weeks of speculation, President Obama has nominated Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court. Now, the real examination begins of Garland’s biography, credentials, and track record. The broad strokes are familiar: Harvard Law School, clerk for Judge Henry Friendly and Justice William Brennan, federal prosecutor and former partner at an elite law firm, chief judge for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Mainstream coverage of his judicial track record notes Garland’s centrism and lack of controversy. Yet, given his years of judicial experience, we wanted to see what we could learn about Garland from a statistical perspective. Would data science reveal an ideology that might surprise?
A centrist in citation
Since joining the D.C. Circuit, Garland has authored over 300 opinions. To see if we could expose conservative or liberal tendencies in these decisions, we took a deep dive with our Judge Analytics platform to identify other judges Garland finds influential (looking at who he likes to cite to).
Judges’ citation patterns can provide a powerful window into their decision-making -- whether it identifies another judge they find persuasive, someone who mentored them, or someone who shares their judicial philosophy. Over time, patterns in citations reveal themselves.