Ga. Congressmen Oppose Federal Judge Nominees
Claims of lack of diversity and flawed process are behind request to President Obama to withdraw six names
Four Georgia Democratic congressmen on Monday called on President Barack Obama to withdraw his nominations for six federal judgeships in the state, claiming the White House's selection process was flawed and resulted in too little racial diversity.
Representatives John Lewis, David Scott and Hank Johnson, all African-American legislators for the Atlanta area, made their views plain at a Monday morning press conference at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. They said Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. of southwest Georgia supported their efforts.
Joined by other African-American leaders who opposed the slate of nominees—all but one of them white—the congressmen focused on two district court nominees. They targeted Troutman Sanders partner Mark Cohen for his defense of the state's voter photo ID law as a special assistant attorney general and Judge Michael Boggs of the Georgia Court of Appeals for stances he took in the General Assembly against abortion rights and gay rights and for a state flag containing a Confederate symbol.
The Rev. C.T. Vivian—whom Obama awarded the Medal of Freedom last month—called for a national campaign, saying the message against the nominees must reach "every street corner" and "every TV set."
Lewis said he was prepared to testify against Boggs and Cohen before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, calling them "unfit" for the federal posts.
"We believe it is not too late to turn this train around," said Lewis.
Obama's nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit are Bondurant Mixson & Elmore partner Jill Pryor, who was nominated to the post nearly two years ago, and Northern District Chief Judge Julie Carnes. The district court nominees, which includes a nominee to replace Carnes if her promotion is confirmed, are Boggs, Cohen, Leigh Martin May of Butler, Wooten & Fryhofer and Judge Eleanor Ross of DeKalb County State Court.
Ross, a former Fulton County assistant district attorney who was tapped by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal to be a judge in DeKalb, is the only African-American among the six nominees.
In September, Lewis, Johnson, Scott, Bishop and Rep. John Barrow wrote to White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler about the slate of then-prospective nominees that reportedly had been agreed to by the state's Republican senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson. The letter said the congressmen were "disappointed, shocked, and chagrined" when they learned of the White House's willingness to consider a package deal of prospective nominees so lacking in diversity and that had been put together without their knowledge.
Holland & Knight partner Charles Johnson, coconvenor of a group of African-American bar associations that orchestrated Monday's event, complained that the process for selecting nominees for the Northern District and Eleventh Circuit was "selective, secretive, exclusionary and highly flawed." He said Obama should start over with a more open process.