NKU president has link to Supreme Court nominee

Posted at 4:50 PM, Mar 16, 2016

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – President Obama's pick to be the next Supreme Court Justice gets high marks from Northern Kentucky University President Geoffrey Mearns.

Mearns' career path intersected with Merrick Garland's, a federal appeals court judge, in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City federal building bombing in 1995.

"I was still a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice. Judge Garland at that time was a high-ranking official in the Justice Department who was providing legal oversight and supervision for the prosecution of the Oklahoma bombing cases," Mearns said.

Garland recommended Mearns be added to the trial team, and Attorney General Janet Reno gave Mearns the assignment.

He remembers Garland as thoughtful, intelligent and personable at a turbulent time.

"I would describe him also as modest. He was unassuming, cordial and collegial and very balanced in his approach," he said.

The case made Garland's career and his reputation, according to the Associated Press.

He oversaw the convictions of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, and went on to supervise the investigation into Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

"(The Oklahoma City bombing case) was and still is the most deadly act of domestic terrorism in the history of the United States, so there was a lot at stake at the trial -- both from a legal standpoint, but also from a public relations and political standpoint. And he provided a very thoughtful, level-headed approach to those very complex, interconnected sets of issues," Mearns said.

Mearns was quick to point out his neutrality on the issue of whether Congress should consider Obama's appointee or refuse to schedule hearings, as Sen. Mitch McConnell, majority leader and a Kentucky Republican, has promised to do. McConnell wants the next president to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, which opened when Justice Antonin Scalia died in February.

"It is clear based upon his track record that he is a thoughtful, experience dedicated legal professional and now judge," Mearns said.