December 23rd, 2013
06:36 PM ET
10 months ago

Obama judicial nominees draw lawmaker, civil rights ire

(CNN) - They've stood by President Barack Obama in the past, but not now.

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 they reserved particular concern for two U.S. District Court appointees.

Mark Cohen was a lead attorney in challenges to George's voter ID law, which opponents deride as discriminatory, and state appeals Judge Michael Boggs, who supported keeping the Confederate battle emblem on the Georgia state flag when he was a legislator last decade.

U.S. Senate confirmation is required for Cohen, Boggs and the other nominees.

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 Democratic Georgia Gov. Zell Miller.

The White House pushed back strongly against the complaints, noting that nearly 20 percent of the judges Obama has named are African American.

It also stressed the President has named two women to the Supreme Court, including the first Latina jurist, Sonia Sotomayor.

Both Republicans and Democrats increasingly see the federal courts as a political battleground. And nationwide, open seats have gone unfilled for years due to partisan warfare and political gridlock.

–CNN's Joe Johns, Bill Mears and Dana Davidsen contributed to this report.


Filed under: Justice Department • President Obama
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. smith

    Democrats are so confusing. Now they are saying Obama is treating them unfairly. What a bunch of cry babies.

    December 23, 2013 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  2. tom l

    The only reason these men are against the nominations is based on skin pigmentation. Can we please move past this already? So sad that the only issue, and I reiterate the ONLY issue, is the color of the nominee's skin.

    December 23, 2013 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  3. Gurgyl

    Is this nation belonging to only Whites? Nonsense, ever-since Obama came to power, every darn thing he does they claim to be wrong or nag. Quit this idiocy in 22nd century. While third world so progressing USA is regressing. Pathetic.

    December 23, 2013 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  4. HenryMiller

    So these people hate discrimination unless it's in their favour?

    December 23, 2013 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  5. Fair is Fair

    Shouldn't the appointees be... oh I don't know... the most qualified for the position, regardless of race, gender, or other demographic?

    December 24, 2013 05:45 am at 5:45 am |
  6. Chris Asking Question

    So...who do they want appointed?

    December 24, 2013 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  7. jpmichigan

    Now that he has his second term, the H-L with the Democrats, he will do what he wants, ,with whom he wants to whom he wants. He no longer has to PLAY Mr. nice guy, his true colors are coming out. But there is recoil to his action/ inactions which are the next Democratic candidate has to answer for his inability to govern or lead.

    December 24, 2013 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  8. Tampa Tim

    Obama is allowed to appoint who he thinks is most qualified, it is then up to republicans to obstruct, so this is new.

    December 24, 2013 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair

    Shouldn't the appointees be... oh I don't know... the most qualified for the position, regardless of race, gender, or other demographic?
    --------------------
    Don't know anything about the guy defending the Voter ID law. He was just probably doing his job. But, the guy who supported the keeping the Confederate battle emblem as part of the state flag would be very troubling to the black folks in Georgia. Most blacks view the Confederate symbols as a statement that says, "Black people are second class citizens." It is one of the most offensivee things that one could do, tied with the N-word.

    But, folks in Georgia have a deeply ingrained sense of the Old South. If you've ever seen the old laser display at Stone Mountain, Georgia, then you would understand just how deep the southern pride actually runs. The lasers draw images of Gen. Robert E. Lee on a horse, and the crowd just simply goes wild. They're happier than an Atlanta Braves fan watching Chipper Jones hit a walk-off grand slam against the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series.

    December 24, 2013 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  10. Larry in Houston

    LOL – that "Georgia democrat" reminds me of 'ole Charlie wrangle – they will always be "Lifers" – b/c the people in their "district" thinks they are the best thing since sliced bread

    December 24, 2013 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  11. Tell it like it is.

    Tampa Tim

    Obama is allowed to appoint who he thinks is most qualified, it is then up to republicans to obstruct, so this is new.
    ________________________________________________________
    ONce again the Democrats and oBama screw things up. Just shows you how confused Obama and Democrats are. THats ok come 2014 Republicans will take back Senate and maintain House. THen we can watch the do nothings Democrats cry like Babies.

    December 24, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  12. idb

    The man has a point. However, the bitter reality is that most African Americans are not qualified to be put in a judicial position. He would do better to promote schooling and integration in society. Segregating themselves from the rest of the Americans by calling themselves "African Americans" does not help in any way shape or form. The key is equal treatment. This cannot be reached by segregating yourself. So, for a judicial position the most qualified person should be chosen, regardless of background. Therefore Mr. Joh Lewis should take a hard look at reality and start from there.

    December 24, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  13. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair

    Shouldn't the appointees be... oh I don't know... the most qualified for the position, regardless of race, gender, or other demographic?
    ------–
    Don't know anything about the guy defending the Voter ID law. He was just probably doing his job. But, the guy who supported the keeping the Confederate battle emblem as part of the state flag would be very troubling to the black folks in Georgia. Most blacks view the Confederate symbols as a statement that says, "Black people are second class citizens." It is one of the most offensivee things that one could do, tied with the N-word.

    But, folks in Georgia have a deeply ingrained sense of the Old South. If you've ever seen the old laser display at Stone Mountain, Georgia, then you would understand just how deep the southern pride actually runs. The lasers draw images of Gen. Robert E. Lee on a horse, and the crowd just simply goes wild. They're happier than an Atlanta Braves fan watching Chipper Jones hit a walk-off grand slam against the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series.
    -------
    What's your point? It doesn't answer the question.

    December 24, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  14. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    What's your point? It doesn't answer the question.
    ----------------------
    Sometimes the phrase "most qualified" is wide open to interpretation. It usually goes far beyond academic records. For example, former college law professor Barack Obama is most qualified to be POTUS. Do you agree with that? However, if John Lewis is unhappy about the selections, then I would give his concerns a full hearing. And, that doesn't mean that I would automatically pick the people that he wants, either.

    December 24, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |