President Barack Obama has a new set of opponents trying to block his judicial nominations: The civil rights activists who made it possible for him to make it to the White House in the first place.
“I’m sorry to have to oppose him on this issue, but a principle is involved here,” said Rev. Joseph Lowery, one of the architects of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. “Long after President Obama will have retired from office, these judges will still be on the bench.”
Three of the last living leaders of the civil rights movement – including Lowery, Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis, and Rev. C.T. Vivian–are calling on Obama to withdraw his slate of judicial nominees for the federal bench in Georgia for being too conservative and for lacking diversity. Only one of the nominees, Eleanor Ross, who was appointed to the bench by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, is black.
As msnbc reported in November, despite the demise of the filibuster, the arcane blue-slip process, through which nominees can be put forth only if they meet the approval of their home state senators, still allows Republicans to exercise significant influence over judicial nominees from behind the scenes. The White House is caught now between its liberal allies who want to see a more progressive judiciary, and Senate traditions that still leave Republicans with considerable influence over the administration’s choices.
Two of the nominees activists are opposing are Michael Boggs and Mark H. Cohen. Boggs, currently a judge in Georgia, is a former state legislator who supported restrictions on access to abortion, voted to preserve the Confederate battle flag as part of the Georgia state flag, and backed a referendum that banned same-sex marriage in the state, according to The Daily Report. Cohen, once chief of staff to former Sen. Zell Miller, the conservative Democrat who angrily denounced his own party at the 2004 Republican convention, defended Georgia’s voter ID law in court. Both men were among the dozens of judicial nominations the White House sent back to the Senate on Monday.
“Our view that this is a major opportunity to put forward more progressive nominees,” Kyle Barry of the liberal Alliance for Justice says. “We should make this rule change worthwhile particularly ahead of the mid-term elections.” If Republicans take back the Senate in November, then six years of Republican obstruction will have prevented the Obama administration from making a bigger mark on the federal courts, leaving a massive opportunity for a potential Republican successor.
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