President Obama has nominated Judge Merrick Garland, a well-known moderate who is respected on both sides of the aisle, as his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Garland is “a brilliant jurist with impeccable credentials,” says Daniel Medwed, Northeastern University Law Professor and WGBH legal analyst.

The 63-year-old Harvard Law School graduate has served as the chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals since 1997. Before that, Garland was a high profile federal prosecutor who led the investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing and the infamous Unabomber case.

But the current political environment makes his confirmation to the Supreme Court uncertain. A partisan battle began brewing soon after death of iconic conservative Justice Antonin Scalia last month. Senate Republicans have vowed to block consideration of any nominee until after the next president is chosen.

It’s “a stroke of political brilliance” on the part of the Obama administration, says Medwed, to nominate a judge who has a reputation – and a record – for being centrist.

“I think the Republican-controlled Senate would have a tough road if it tried to portray Garland as a bleeding-heart liberal.”

But the majority of Republicans are still committed to blocking Garland’s nomination – soon after the announcement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for an end to Garland’s nomination, no matter his qualifications.

A few Republicans have suggested they might be more open to considering Garland if a Democratic president is elected in November. In the meantime, however, the confirmation is likely to be a bitter fight. 

And that means Garland will be facing intense scrutiny, says Medwed: “One consequence of being a judge for 19 years is there is a lengthy public record for conservatives to pour over and pick apart.”

Medwed thinks that one issue, in particular, may be Garland’s “Achilles heel” – his position on gun rights. Back in 2007, Garland was supportive of a gun ordinance which would have greatly limited the rights of gun owners in D.C. That ordinance, says Medwed, was overturned as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in a decision authored by none other than Justice Scalia.

“I suspect conservatives will latch onto the gun issue and use it as a pretext to block Garland’s candidacy, ” he says.

Ultimately, says Medwed, it’s tough to tell whether Judge Garland will ever become Justice Garland. “If merits were the principle factor, he would sail through….but as we know from watching the current political season, facts, reality, merits seem to take a backseat to broader political considerations.”