Think Progress - In 2003, [Merrick] Garland joined an opinion holding that the federal judiciary lacks the authority “to assert habeas corpus jurisdiction at the behest of an alien held at a military base leased from another nation, a military base outside the sovereignty of the United States" -- an opinion that effectively prohibited Guantanamo Bay detainees from seeking relief in civilian courts. A little over a year later, the Supreme Court reversed this decision in Rasul v. Bush...
The former prosecutor also has a relatively conservative record on criminal justice. A 2010 examination of his decisions by SCOTUS Blog's Tom Goldstein determined that “Judge Garland rarely votes in favor of criminal defendants’ appeals of their convictions.” Goldstein “identified only eight such published rulings,” in addition to seven where “he voted to reverse the defendant’s sentence in whole or in part, or to permit the defendant to raise a argument relating to sentencing on remand,” during the 13 years Garland had then spent on the DC Circuit.
To be clear, Garland's record does not suggest that he would join the Court's right flank if confirmed to the Supreme Court. He would likely vote much more often than not with the Supreme Court's liberals, while occasionally casting a heterodox vote. Nevertheless, as [as was written] in 2010 when Garland was under consideration to replace the retiring liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, "to the extent that the President's goal is to select a nominee who will articulate a broad progressive vision for the law, Judge Garland would be a very unlikely candidate to take up that role."
Salon - Interesting reactions I’m getting from Dems on the Garland news: ‘holy shit,’ ‘unreal,'” the Huffington Post’s Jennifer Bendery tweeted.
It’s easy to understand why. Garland is the epitome of a bland choice: a centrist, impeccably credentialed white man. In choosing him, Obama passed over several more interesting and/or liberal picks, and nominated someone whose judicial history suggests he might actually move the court to the right on criminal justice issues. In an election year, at a time when Democrats are fervently pitching themselves as the party of a changing, increasingly diverse nation, when the nominee could have been the potential embodiment of a leftward transformation on the court, Garland is a deflating sort of pick.