Merrick Garland is going back to work.
After getting a holiday send-off of sorts from President Barack Obama last week, the erstwhile Supreme Court nominee will resume in January his judicial duties on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where he is chief judge and has served for nearly 20 years.
The court’s public calendar, which was last updated Monday, noted that Garland will hear three cases on Jan. 18, two days before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office and sets out to make a high court nomination of his own.
A court official confirmed the public “will start seeing him more and more in cases starting in January.”
During a Hanukkah celebration at the White House last week, Obama suggested it was the end of the road for Garland’s record-breaking nomination, which went longer than any other in history without a hearing or a vote.
Garland will “continue to serve our country with distinction as the chief judge on the D.C. Circuit,” Obama said, eight months after his nomination. As of Monday, Garland had waited 278 days for Senate action.
Back in March, the judge had taken a leave from hearing cases while his confirmation remained pending, presumably because many of the legal disputes might land before the Supreme Court, requiring his recusal if he had participated in them.
The Senate hasn’t officially returned the Garland nomination to the White House, but it is expected to do so on Jan. 3, the day the old Congress adjourns and the new one is sworn in. The late Justice Antonin Scalia died Feb. 13, and his seat has remained vacant since.
That same day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he’d refuse to move forward with any nomination Obama might make to replace Scalia, and soon after nearly every Senate Republican fell in line. The sudden Supreme Court vacancy became such a flashpoint for Republicans and the presidential campaign, even Trump realized he could get staunch conservatives to back him based on who he might nominate to the court.
“Even if you can’t stand Donald Trump, even if you think I’m the worst, you’re going to vote for me. You know why? Judges,” Trump said during a Virginia rally in August.
A month later, he issued a list of 21 potential Supreme Court nominees, from which he committed to choose if elected president.