President Barack Obama has nominated veteran appellate court judge Merrick Garland to the US Supreme Court, setting up a potentially ferocious political showdown with Senate Republicans who have vowed to block any Obama nominee.
Considered a moderate, Garland, 63, is currently chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
He was picked to replace long-serving conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on February 13.
"I've selected a nominee who is widely recognised not only as one of America's sharpest legal minds but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness and excellence," Obama said in the White House Rose Garden on Wednesday.
"These qualities and his long commitment to public service have earned him the respect and admiration of leaders from both sides of the aisle (Democrats and Republicans). He will ultimately bring that same character to bear on the Supreme Court, an institution in which he is uniquely prepared to serve immediately," Obama added.
Senate confirmation is required for any nominee to join the bench and Senate Republicans have vowed not to hold confirmation hearings or a vote on any nominee picked by the Democratic president for the lifetime position on the court.
Republicans are demanding that Obama leave the seat vacant and let the next president, to be elected in November and sworn in next January, make the selection.
Garland, is a long-time appellate judge and former prosecutor who Obama also considered when he filled two previous Supreme Court vacancies.