NASW Statement: Judge Merrick Garland Highly Qualified to be U.S. Supreme Court Justice

NASW Statement:

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is pleased President Obama has nominated Judge Merrick Garland to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Garland is highly qualified and respected and NASW expects the U.S. Senate to fulfill its obligation and hold hearings on his nomination in reasonable time.

It will be a disservice to the nation if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) does not meet with Garland and maintains his position that it is best to wait until after the November presidential election to hold hearings on a new U.S. Supreme Court justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia.

Such a position will leave a vacant seat in the court for more than a year. This will delay decisions on U.S. Supreme Court cases involving issues important to the social work profession and the people whom social workers serve, including female reproductive rights, voting rights, equal opportunity in education, immigration reform, and labor rights.

NASW agrees with other national civil and human rights organizations that “courts matter.” Therefore, NASW strongly urges the Senate to “Do Their Job and Honor Constitutional Obligation to Fill the Supreme Court Vacancy.”

For more information on this issue contact NASW Manager of Social Justice and Human Rights Mel Wilson at



  1. It may be that each of us as social workers have a duty to answer the very good questions and inquiries by esteemed NASW members to determine if as contributory members there should be a continuing debate and/or support for NASW’s decision to support President Obama’s nomination and how it may affect SW and those we seek to empower. I do support the need to provide Mr. Garland the opportunity to prove his qualification in a timely manner and oppose inaction simply due to the President’s time left in office.

  2. I also have to agree with Beth. What we – or at least I – am looking for is a summary of his judicial rulings and what his rulings indicate about where he stands on the issues that are important to social workers in particular, and the country as a whole. Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and John Roberts are equally qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. Would you support them simply because they are qualified? If you support one nomination over another, it begs the question why? I want to know what his past rulings indicate in terms of the environment, voting rights, penal reform LGBT issues, abortion/access to health care for poor women, Wall Street financing of elections, etc. Also, what is his judicial philosophy. Is he a strict constitutionalist or does he view the Constitution as a living always unfinished document that needs interpretation in terms of changing times and circumstances. I look forward to your summary regarding the reasons why you consider Merrick Garland to be just not qualified, but why his qualifications should be supported by social workers.

    • I completely agree. Just because the NASW believes that they have been a supreme Jurist, doesn’t mean that I will agree. I definitely want to see a synopsis of his rulings and stances on pertinent issues, and preferably a synopsis from either side of the aisle to better understand the pros and cons for accepting him onto the Supreme court. The next Supreme Court Justice will play a major role in the political future of the United States considering the raging debate over the perspective we should have toward the constitution, as you mentioned.

      However, I do agree with the NASW that Congress needs to do their duty and discuss Garland’s nomination in a timely manner. If the Senate waited until after the election, it would be over 200 days from TODAY, a completely unsubstantiated amount of time considering that no US Congress has taken more than 125 days to process a nomination, and, most often, it takes about half that.

  3. The Senate is largely Republican. The Democratic president has had an uphill battle with the Republican Senate to agree on anything since day 1 of Obama’s presidency. Do you remember the government shut down because the Republican would not agree with the President budget agenda (2009). The fundamental core belief is to run the country, manage its budget, not be careless with people’s lives and careless with tax dollars. As a taxpayer, regardless of whether I am a social worker or not says Leave the Personal Agendas out of the equation. President Ronald Reagan nominated a judge in his last year in office, nobody had a problem then. So what is the really going on here?

    Sit in on a law class, Justice is about placing blame not really about playing fair, Justice. Government is filled with lawyers so social workers need to ensure that rules are followed.

  4. I have to agree with Beth on this. Why is the NASW standing behind this nomination? There needs to be a reason why …not everyone is for this that is a Social Worker. Research on everything is key to our profession and education of the public.

    • Great point Paula. Although the NASW represents our profession it shouldn’t expect all social workers to just blindly agree with and support all of their positions.

  5. This article urges the Senate, led by Majority Leader McConnell, to continue the Confirmation process for Judge Garland. To title it with an unsubstantiated opinion statement is misleading. Why is there no description of WHY NASW supports Judge Garland’s appointment to the Supreme Court?

    Ever since the nomination was announced last week, I’ve engaged in online research into Judge Garland’s background and history of Rulings. Has NASW done the same? If so, please cite the reasons for the Association’s support of this nominee.

    The emotionalistic foundation for many of NASW’s policy and position statements fails to convince the public that Social Workers are little more than “bleeding hearts”. As Dr. Angelo McClain stated in his March NASW News article, our profession needs to quickly generate more robust, outcomes-based research to demonstrate evidence of the value of our profession. To ignore this plea is to facilitate the death-nell of our profession.

    • Hello Beth:

      Thank you for your comments. In response, I need to point out that NASW’s position on Judge Garland is grounded on several major constitutional and historical foundations; (1) In the event of a vacancy on the Supreme Court, there is a constitutional obligation and responsibility for a sitting President to nominate a candidate to fill that vacancy, and submit the name to the Senate for advice and consent; (2) Upon receiving the name of the nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, it is the Senate’s constitutional obligation and responsibility to hold hearings to review the candidate’s credentials and qualifications to serve as an Associate Justice, followed by a vote by the full Senate to either confirm or reject the nomination; and (3) President Obama has nearly a full year left in his presidency. Given the many important issues for the courts to decide, it is unacceptable to insist that the court operates with eight justices for such a long period of time.
      With regards to NASW researching Judge Gardner’s qualifications to be a Supreme Court Justice, our position is that the fundamental purpose of the Senate holding hearings is to determine if the nomine is qualified for the bench. There has long been a well- defined process for determining the level of qualification that all Supreme Court nominees have once their credentials are submitted to the Senate by the President.
      Nonetheless, based on the opinions of liberal and conservative legal scholars, judicial colleagues, and politicians who know Judge Gardner’s judicial history, Judge Gardner he is rated as an outstanding jurists who is well-qualified to sit on the Supreme Court.
      Therefore, NASW joins many other organizations in stating that Senator McConnell is obligated under the constitution to receive Judge Gardner’s nomination, allow for hearings by the Judiciary Committee, and allow the full Senate to vote him up or down.

      Mel Wilson
      NASW Social Justice and Human Rights Manager

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