Illinois heavy hitters go to bat for Merrick Garland, Biden's Attorney General nominee

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some of the biggest names in Illinois' legal system, from both political parties, are urging Senate confirmation of President Biden's choice for U.S. Attorney General, Merrick Garland.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), will open Garland's confirmation hearing on Monday.

Two letters to Durbin and Congressional leaders in support of Garland were signed by 61 former federal judges and more than 150 former Department of Justice officials from across the nation. The letters include ten prominent names from Illinois who have signed on in support of Garland.

"We are former federal judges, appointed by both Republican and Democratic Presidents," the notable ex-judges write. "We believe, based upon Judge Garland's character, his impeccable judicial service, and his distinguished service to the United States as a federal prosecutor and senior Justice Department official, that he will be an outstanding Attorney General."

The signees include three men who once served as U.S. Attorneys in the Northern District of Illinois and two former Downstate U.S. Attorneys. The Chicago signatories are Zachary Fardon, Patrick Fitzgerald and Sam Skinner. Fardon was the top U.S. prosecutor based in Chicago from 2013-2017; Fitzgerald from 2001-2012 and Skinner between 1975 and 1977.

The other two were U.S. Attorneys in the Central District of Illinois headquartered in Springfield. James A. Lewis who served from 2010 to 2016 and Jan Paul Miller who was the top prosecutor there between 2002 and 2005.

"The work and reputation of the Department of Justice are as important as they have ever been," ex-prosecutors write. "Judge Garland is the right person to ensure the fair administration of justice, whether related to national security, public integrity, civil rights, antitrust, crime, or other pressing issues."

The letter from former judges includes five who were on the bench in Chicago: Ruben Castillo, who was the first person of Latino descent to become a judge in the Northern District of Illinois and was named Chief Judge in 2013; Wayne Anderson was a federal judge from 1991-2010; Ann Claire Williams who sat on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals from 1999-2017 after being a District Court Judge from 1985-1999; James Holderman 1985-2015 and David Coar who was on the federal bench in Chicago between 1994 and 2010.

Garland was nominated to be a Supreme Court Justice by former President Barack Obama during his last year in office, but the GOP-controlled Senate at the time refused to confirm him. He currently serves on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
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