Metro Weekly

Progressive groups urge senators to reject Obama judicial nominee

Image: Michael Boggs testifies at his May 13 confirmation hearing. Credit: Senate Judiciary Committee.

Image: Michael Boggs testifies at his May 13 confirmation hearing. Credit: Senate Judiciary Committee.

President Obama’s embattled judicial nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia faced renewed opposition this week as nearly 30 civil and human rights organizations urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject his confirmation.

In a June 4 letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and 25 organizations, including several LGBT-rights groups, warned that confirmation of Michael Boggs to the federal bench “would undermine the future of civil and human rights jurisprudence in the Northern District Court of Georgia.”

Boggs was nominated by President Barack Obama in December as part of a compromise with Georgia’s Republican senators, Saxby Chambliss and John Isakson, to fill six judicial vacancies in Georgia. Boggs’s legislative record from when he served as a Democrat in the Georgie House of Representatives, from 2000 to 2004, dominated his confirmation hearing last month as Democratic senator after Democratic senator on the Judiciary Committee questioned whether his conservative political views on same-sex marriage, abortion and the Confederate flag would inform his decisions on the federal bench. 

“My personal opinion was, at the time, over a decade ago, that I was in support of a proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage. My position may or may not have changed since that time, as many peoples’ have over the last decade,” Boggs said at his hearing. “Moreover my position on that as reflected by those personal comments in 2004 have never had any import whatsoever in how I decided cases or how I analyzed issues both as a trial court judge and an appellate court judge.”

Boggs, who has been a judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals since January 2012 and served as a superior court judge from 2004 to 2012, told the committee that the “best evidence of the type of judge I will be is the record of the type of judge I have been. I don’t think my legislative record that’s over a decade old is indicative of what type of judge I might be on the federal district court.”

Despite those assurances, a number of Democratic senators have voiced their skepticism to his confirmation to the federal bench. After Boggs’s confirmation hearing, the Human Rights Campaign, which joined in signing yesterday’s letter, reaffirmed their opposition to his confirmation as well.

“Boggs’ record in the legislature on issues of marriage equality serves as further evidence of the threat his nomination poses to civil rights jurisprudence,” Wednesday’s letter stated. “While in the Georgia state legislature, Boggs voted in favor of a constitutional amendment banning marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Further, during his campaign for a seat on the Georgia Superior Court (trial court), Boggs was quoted in the press as stating, ‘I am proud of my record. You don’t have to guess where I stand – I oppose same-sex marriages…I have a record that tells you exactly what I stand for…’”

HRC, GetEqual Action, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund were among the organizations to sign the letter.

“Boggs’ public statements and legislative record on issues related to civil and human rights raises serious questions as to whether he would rule fairly and impartially on a broad range of these issues. During his hearing, Judge Boggs failed to adequately answer these questions,” the letter states. “For the above reasons, we urge you to reject the confirmation of Michael P. Boggs to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.”

The White House has stood behind Boggs, while emphasizing the fact that his nomination is part of a compromise with Senate Republicans. Asked last month if the president supports Democrats voting against Boggs, White House press secretary Jay Carney did little to rally support for his confirmation. 

“The President would disagree with an assessment by anyone that reaches the conclusion that Judge Boggs is not qualified for this post. The President believes he is, or he would not have nominated him,” Carney told reporters. “But the President of course believes that each senator should vote as he or she sees fit.” 

Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Boggs Letter

Justin Snow is Metro Weekly's former political editor and White House correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @JustinCSnow.