Obama pick for Georgia court faces tough opposition -- from Senate Democrats


McClatchy Washington Bureau

President Barack Obama has had a hard time getting his nominees for federal judgeships through the Senate confirmation process, but this time the resistance is coming from members of his own party.

Obama's nomination of conservative Democrat Michael Boggs as U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Georgia generated pushback from liberals, who grilled Boggs at a hearing Tuesday about his past votes to oppose repeal of the Confederate flag and ban same-sex marriage.

Boggs cast the votes while serving in the Georgia legislature from 2001-2004.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said at the committee hearing that Boggs‘ failure to not include information in his written questionnaire "puts in jeopardy the nomination."

He told reporters after the Judicial Committee hearing that Boggs’ nomination "has raised serious and significant concerns," and that he has “very serious concerns" about the sincerity of Bogg's disavowals of past positions.

A broad coalition of civil rights groups_including the American Civil Liberties Union and NAACP_had raised concerns about Boggs prior to the hearing.

"We find his conservative record deeply troubling, particularly when it comes to issues of race and same-sex marriage," The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said in a statement.

The Obama administration on Tuesday defended the choice which White House spokesman Jay Carney said is part of a deal cut between Obama and Georgia's Republican Senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss. The compromise fills six judicial vacancies in Georgia, including five women -- one the first female district judge on her court, and one the first African-American female lifetime appointed judge in Georgia.

Isakson and Chambliss recommended Boggs to the president, and Isakson thanked Obama for the nod as the hearing got underway.

“Without hesitation or reservation he has been inclusive,” Isakson said of Obama.

Carney said the White House has been trying to fill the judicial vacancies in Georgia for more than three years, but that two of his nominees were blocked for nearly 11 months, and returned at the end of 2011.

"Our choice is clear,” Carney said. “Do we work with Republican senators to find a compromise, or should we leave the seats vacant? Given that option, four of these vacancies are judicial emergencies, and we believe it would be grossly irresponsible for the president to leave these seats vacant."

Obama believes Boggs is qualified and should be confirmed, Carney said.

"Of all the recent criticisms offered against Michael Boggs, not one is based on his record as a judge for the past 10 years," he said. "And what has distinguished him as a state court judge at the trial level, as well as on the court of appeals, is that he has taken a keen interest and leading role in criminal justice reform."

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