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Group Wants to ask Obama for Delay on Judge Candidates

African-American legal groups from Georgia seek a slate with more diversity

, Daily Report

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Charles Johnson says group wants a meeting with President Obama.
Charles Johnson says group wants a meeting with President Obama.

An organization representing the state's leading African-American legal associations is asking to meet with President Barack Obama to object to a slate of candidates now being considered by the White House for six federal judgeships in Georgia.

The group wants the president to delay filling the judicial posts—two on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and four on the Northern District of Georgia bench—rather than nominate a list of candidates that Georgia's two Republican senators approved in consultation with the White House counsel earlier this year.

Of the six proposed nominees for the vacant federal posts, only one is an African-American. Three are white women; two are white men.

Meanwhile, civil rights leader Joseph Lowery, formerly of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and now with the Coalition for the People's Agenda, said he has spoken to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and to presidential aide Valerie Jarrett about the list of proposed nominees.

"I told them they ought to review the process," Lowery told the Daily Report. "I told them they ought to come up with a list of people who represented justice and balance and fairness. … The judiciary, particularly the federal judiciary, is so important for all of us. And we want the president to stand up and fight."

Lowery said that Rep. John Lewis told him that if the president insists on nominating the slate of candidates now under consideration, Lewis and others may decide to testify against some of them in U.S. Senate confirmation hearings.

"A congressman testifying against nominees for the Georgia bench, I think, would send a clear message to the president," Lowery said. Lewis' spokeswoman confirmed that Lewis had talked to Lowery but said she would not confirm the substance of the conversation.

Advocacy for Action, which was established earlier this year by a task force of the Gate City Bar Association and the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys, recently sent letters to Georgia's five Democratic congressmen, asking for their assistance in securing a meeting between the president and leaders of seven of the state's African-American legal associations "to allow the organizations to voice their objections to the slate directly to the President."

"We must impress upon the President the concern of and the high cost to the community in filling the federal court vacancies with individuals who do not support the philosophy and policies of his administration," the letters said. "We want to let the President know that many within the legal community and the community at large would prefer a delay filling the open seats on Atlanta's federal bench rather than accept a compromise that stacks the bench with attorneys and sitting judges who are not reflective of Georgia's rich diversity in thought and ethnicity."

"In light of the diversity of the population of the Northern District of Georgia, and in light of the large number of African American attorneys who practice in that district, the insufficient diversity in the current slate of proposed nominees is especially troubling," the Advocacy for Action letters said.

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