To some legal observers, Garland is an ideal candidate. A former federal prosecutor and Justice Department official who oversaw the case against the Oklahoma City bomber, Garland has the kind of Justice Department experience and credibility many have sought. Famously snubbed by a Republican Senate, which refused to consider his 2016 nomination by President Barack Obama to serve on the Supreme Court, he still enjoys a reputation as a unifying, moderating force on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and is seen as being easily confirmable by the Senate.

But as Garland draws increasingly serious consideration, some defense lawyers and criminal justice reform advocates say they worry Garland’s record on the bench shows he is too deferential to the government and law enforcement — and perhaps would not be as aggressive about implementing the kind of dramatic changes they had hoped for.

“It’s certainly a safe choice,” said Kevin Ring, the president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), a criminal justice advocacy group. “It’s not an inspired choice.”