US President-elect Joe Biden has formally announced judge Merrick Garland as his nominee for Attorney General, a role that amounts to being the nation’s top law enforcement officer.
Garland, a Justice Department veteran, currently serves on the powerful US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
He came to prominence in 2016 as former president Barack Obama’s choice to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative icon.
But the Republican-controlled Senate at the time blocked the appointment of Garland, who is considered a political moderate, and he never had his nomination considered.
Republicans wanted to prevent Obama, a Democrat, in the final months of his eight years in office from filling the lifetime post.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had declared any appointment by Obama as invalid because it came in an election year, and used his influence to block a vote on Garland, infuriating Democrats.
Attorney-Generals wield broad power in the US, where they are traditionally seen as non-political actors in highly polarised Washington.
Over the course of his four years in office president, Donald Trump has come under fire for seeming to expect his attorney-generals to do his personal bidding.
In a statement on Thursday, Biden said Garland would help “restore the independence of the [Justice] Department so it serves the interests of the people, not a presidency.
“And also to rebuild public trust in the rule of law, and work tirelessly to ensure a more fair and equitable justice system.”