Bush Judicial Nominee Miguel Estrada Dismantles Conservatives' Smear That Merrick Garland Is A Threat To The Second Amendment

Bush Judicial Nominee Miguel Estrada Dismantles Conservatives' Smear That Merrick Garland Is A Threat To The Second Amendment

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Republican lawyer Miguel Estrada dismissed the claims from discredited right-wing organization Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) that Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland's judicial record indicates a "bias against Second Amendment rights."

In a March 27 NPR story that refuted activists' criticisms of Garland's judicial record, Estrada -- who was nominated by President George W. Bush to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia -- explained that "the evidence that is being cited for the accusation that Judge Garland has some bias against Second Amendment rights is from thin to non-existent."

The "evidence" dismissed by Estrada as "thin to non-existent" originated from the Judicial Crisis Network, which has been making this false charge against Garland since March 11, before he was nominated by President Obama, claiming that Garland's vote to rehear a 2007 case on handgun restrictions indicates he "has a very liberal view on gun rights."

However, Garland was joined in his vote by the very conservative Judge A. Raymond Randolph, and legal scholars have explained that reading anti-gun bias in this vote by Garland is a "dangerous" assumption.

As Estrada explained to NPR, voting to rehear a case does not indicate a judge's view of the merits of the case, but rather "the rules say that the full court may wish to rehear the case itself when the case raises a question, and I quote, 'of exceptional importance.'"

Like several journalists who cover the courts and legal issued for national media outlets, Estrada dismissed the evidence presented by the JCN that Garland is anti-gun:

[C]onservative activists see Garland's record as tilting distinctly to the left. The Judicial Crisis Network has already spent $4 million on TV and radio advertisements in 10 states insisting that he "would be the tie-breaking vote for Obama's big government liberalism."

Proving some of these assertions, however, can be difficult.

"The evidence that is being cited for the accusation that Judge Garland has some bias against Second Amendment rights is from thin to non-existent," says Miguel Estrada, a conservative Republican lawyer whose own nomination to the D.C. Circuit was stalled by Democrats during the George W. Bush administration.

Estrada notes that the charge that Garland is hostile to gun rights stems from a case challenging the District of Columbia's ban on handguns. In 2007, a three-judge panel -- not including Garland -- ruled for the first time that there is a constitutional right to own guns for self-defense. Afterward, Garland was one of four judges, including a conservative Reagan appointee, who voted for the full court to rehear the case.

Estrada explains that "the rules say that the full court may wish to rehear the case itself when the case raises a question, and I quote, 'of exceptional importance.' "

The gun rights case certainly was of exceptional importance, he said, since no court of appeals had ever before ruled that there was an individual right to own a gun. Ultimately, Estrada notes, the Supreme Court, too, thought the case was of exceptional importance, since it agreed to review the lower court decision and, in a landmark opinion, sustained it.

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