As 2013 wound down, the White House agreed to a lopsided deal with Georgia’s Republican Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson that effectively allowed the two Republicans to choose four of the six people Obama would nominate to federal judgeships in their state. Almost immediately, civil rights leaders and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) reacted to this deal with indignation. Rev. Joseph Lowery, the civil rights leader President Obama invited to give the benediction at his first inaugural, labeled the deal a “tragic mistake.” Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), one of the most important leaders of the Civil Rights Era, warned that the nominees include “persons who have advocated in favor of Georgia’s voter ID laws and for including the Confederate Battle Emblem as part of the Georgia State Flag.”
Until Wednesday, however, public criticism of this deal was largely limited to the CBC and the civil rights community. That changed last night, when NARAL Pro-Choice America announced its opposition to one of the judges included in the Georgia package of nominees, and that they would pressure senators to vote “no” on this judge’s nomination.
The target of NARAL’s campaign is Michael Boggs, a Georgia appellate judge nominated to a federal trial judgeship. Boggs is the former state lawmaker the CBC opposes in part due to his vote to preserve the Confederate emblem on Georgia’s state flag. NARAL cites a few other votes he casts as a lawmaker — including his support for a “Choice Life” license plate that helped fund anti-abortion groups and a law requiring parents to accompany their daughters to abortion clinics if the daughter is under the age of 18 — in explaining their opposition. Historically, anti-abortion groups have been very active in trying to shape the federal judiciary. NARAL’s opposition to Boggs could be an early sign that pro-choice groups intend to meet that force with equal force.
Additionally, there are signs that gay rights groups may join the opposition to Boggs. As Evan McMorris-Santoro, who also first reported NARAL’s opposition, notes in Buzzfeed, the Human Rights Campaign says that they are “concerned” about Boggs’ nomination. Boggs opposed marriage equality as a state legislator.
This lopsided deal, which led to Republicans being able to choose most of the people named by a Democratic president to Georgia judicial seats, resulted due to a relic of an old patronage system that allows senators to effectively veto judicial nominees in their home state. Although Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has the ability to eliminate this veto, he has thus far refused to do so.
Nevertheless, senators retain the power to vote “no” on the four judges selected by Isakson & Chambliss. Indeed, NARAL launched a petition to senators asking them to do just that on Boggs. You can sign the petition opposing Boggs’ nomination at this link.