Civil rights leaders hit Obama on judges
President Barack Obama has upset Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and other civil rights leaders by ignoring their input in picking four nominees to fill vacancies on the federal bench in Georgia’s Northern District.
On Monday, Lewis and fellow Presidential Medal of Freedom winners Joseph Lowery and C.T. Vivian are expected to ask Obama to withdraw his nominees — a demand that is unlikely to be met — amid concerns about the judges’ records and convictions on matters of importance to African-Americans, as well as Obama’s process for selecting them.
“Bad process resulted in bad judges,” Suzy Ockleberry, a lawyer involved in the effort to pressure Obama, said in a Monday morning interview.
The White House cleared three of the judges — Mark Cohen, Eleanor Ross and Michael Boggs — with GOP Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss as part of a deal to fill two seats on the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, according to reports in a legal journal called the Daily Report and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Cohen was the lead defense attorney in challenges to Georgia’s voter ID law. Two others, Eleanor Ross, who is African-American, and Michael Boggs, who is white, were appointed to state judgeships in recent years by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal. The civil rights leaders object to Boggs, in part, because, as a member of the state Legislature, he once voted to keep in place the Confederate-themed Georgia state flag. The fourth, Leigh May Martin, is a Democratic woman.
Opponents of the judges say that the president should have heeded the advice of the community, including Democratic members of Congress, in making his selections, which were announced Dec. 19.
White House officials point their finger at Isakson, Chambliss and a Senate “blue slip” tradition in which the two senators must approve of a president’s choices for judicial appointments in their state before a vote on the nominations are scheduled.
A White House aide noted that Isakson and Chambliss refused to sign off on Obama’s nomination of Natasha Silas and Jill Pryor, the House Democratic delegation’s preferred pick for a district court seat and a circuit court seat, respectively. Pryor ended up being part of the deal that cleared the way for the four district court nominations.