Last month, a long-rumored bipartisan deal to fill a number of district court and Court of Appeals vacancies finally went through, much to the chagrin of Georgia civil rights leaders. Out of the six nominees, only one was a racial minority, and two had previously taken controversial stances on divisive issues (Confederate flags and voter ID laws).
Now, Advocacy for Action, a coalition of African-American attorneys, has asked Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. to allow the organization to testify in opposition to the slate of nominees.
At first bluff, we'd ask, "what secret?" After all, we knew about the rumored "backroom" deal months before it actually happened.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the deal was struck between the White House and Georgia's Republican Senators (likely due to the senators' blue slip powers), with little-to-no input from the state's other congressmen, or from the community. Politifact rates these allegations as "mostly true."
Not Diverse Enough
A letter to Sen. Leahy, from Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), posted on Advocacy for Action's website, notes that should the rumored deal go through, there will only one African-American district court judge in Georgia. Rep. Scott and Advocacy for Action are concerned that the lifetime appointment of a slate lacking in diversity now will mean that the bench will not reflect the demographics of the state for at least another generation.
Though the letter doesn't specifically address the Circuit Court of Appeals bench, we've noted in previous posts about the nominees' lack of diversity that the bench contains four women, one African-American, one Cuban-American, and four Caucasian males, one of whom is an octogenarian. There is also a vacancy left by the Judge Joel Dubina's move to senior status.
Advocacy for Action and Rep. Scott are also seeking to oppose certain candidates specifically, especially Judge Michael P. Boggs and Mark Cohen.
According to the organization's letter to Sen. Leahy, Judge Boggs, while sitting in the Georgia legislature, voted against removing the Confederate battle emblem from the Georgia flag (2001), against recognizing gay marriage (2004) and against respecting a woman's right to reproductive freedom (2004), stances all contrary to the views espoused by the Obama administration.
Mark Cohen fought to uphold Georgia's voter photo ID law in 2010, the same type of law that the Department of Justice is contesting in a lawsuit against the State of Texas.
Do They Have a Chance?
It seems unlikely, unless their testimony and advocacy sways a number of Democratic senators to go against their own president. The deal, as brokered, was a bipartisan compromise made necessary by Georgia's two Republican senators ability to block any nominations made by the administration. The administration gave up more district court seats in order to push through their arguably more-important Circuit Court of Appeals nominee.
However, by bringing attention to the issue, Advocacy for Action may put pressure on President Obama to nominate a diverse candidate for the current vacancy on the appeals court, or any other vacancies that may arise in the near future.