President Barack Obama must not saddle Georgia with his long-delayed and finally newly-proposed judicial appointments, which are indeed a betrayal of everything for which he has claimed to stand, both as a candidate and now as President. The fact that leading Georgia Democrats have strongly and publicly opposed these judicial nominations, demanding that the President withdraw them, should tell him something. The fact that such Presidential insensitivity to the concerns of progressive Georgians is becoming legendary should tell him even more. The only consultations which took place regarding these appointments seems to have involved the State's two Conservative Republican Senators. For shame!
According to a recent New York Times story, "three African-American members of Congress are part of a civil rights coalition claiming they were deliberately kept out of the process for filling vacancies on two Atlanta-based federal courts. They want the President to act on their concerns and withdraw the nominations announced last week. ' Justice can't be found in secret deals that shut the people out. Mr. President, the lives of the people of this state are hanging in the balance,' said U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat. 'We believe it is not too late to turn this train around.' The group, which also includes Georgia Democratic Reps. David Scott and Hank Johnson and civil rights icon Rev. Joseph Lowery, noted at an Atlanta news conference on Monday that only one of five selected is a minority."
But there is considerably more to the vital concerns over these appointments than their failure to reflect Georgia's population structure. Presidential judicial nominees include Mark Cohen, who was a lead attorney in challenges to Georgia's voter ID law, which is widely viewed as discriminatory against minorities and the disadvantaged; and state appeals Judge Michael Boggs, who supported keeping the Confederate battle emblem on the Georgia state flag when he was a State legislator during the previous decade. Should the President really want judges in Georgia who oppose voting rights for all, or who support symbols of slavery on the Georgia flag? Clearly, many leaders of his own political party, as well as leaders of the civil rights movement, resoundingly answer: NO!
In nominating Cohen and Boggs along with a number of other district judges nationally on December 19, Obama characterized them as "highly qualified" candidates who will be "distinguished public servants and valuable additions" to the federal court. Boggs has served as a state superior or appeals judge since 2004. Prior to that, he was a private attorney for several years and a Democratic State Representative for four years. Cohen is a litigation partner at the Atlanta law firm of Troutman Sanders, where he has worked since 1999 and has been a partner since 2001. Cohen previously worked for Georgia Gov. Zell Miller, who changed parties and became a Republican, leading in part to Georgia's becoming a Red State for the past two decades.
Nevertheless, there are a host of very well-qualified attorneys and jurists who are not associated with such reactionary cases and causes as are some of his present picks for federal judgeships in Georgia. The President needs to go back to the drawing board and honor his many promises of choosing those whose administration of justice will be just for all of the people of Georgia. He also needs to consult local leaders here who have spent their lives in the cause of equal justice for all. As a Constitutional lawyer himself, President Obama surely understands those requirements of his Oath of Office. Now, he needs to take actions which honor that Oath, and which are consistent with the supposed principles for which he stands.