- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The White House is facing another tough battle over one of its judicial nominees — only this time President Obama faces opposition from his own party, with his former Senate colleagues accusing one of his picks for a federal judgeship in Georgia of turning a blind eye to racism in a debate over the Confederate symbol on the state’s former flag.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, would not commit Tuesday to bringing Judge Michael Boggs‘ nomination to the floor for a vote, saying he will wait for the outcome of the vetting process underway in the Judiciary Committee.

Testifying to the panel earlier in the day, Judge Boggs, who now serves on the Georgia Court of Appeals, repeatedly disavowed his own record as a Georgia legislator. He said he now regrets voting to preserve the state’s 1956 flag, a design dominated by the Confederate battle flag that black Georgians saw as a relic of racism.

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“I deserve that criticism based on that vote,” Judge Boggs said, adding that he was reflecting the will of his constituents, not his own thoughts on race or the state flag, when he cast that vote.

Judge Boggs isn’t the only Obama nominee facing hurdles. Harvard law professor David J. Barron faces questions over his role in writing the Obama administration’s drone policy, and both Republicans and Democrats have demanded access to related memos before advancing his nomination.

The two nominations mark a major political turn after years of Republican reluctance to confirm presidential picks whom they considered liberal activists.

In the case of Judge Boggs, it was Democrats who questioned whether he could distance himself from his record as a state legislator, when he also cast conservative votes on hot-button issues such as gay marriage and abortion.

Black Democratic leaders in Congress have criticized Judge Boggs‘ nomination and questioned why the Senate hearing was held while the House was on a weeklong recess.

The White House said Mr. Obama stands behind Judge Boggs and his 10-year record as a state court judge, amassing what press secretary Jay Carney called a distinguished record.

“The president believes that he’s qualified and ought to be confirmed,” the spokesman said.

He added, however, that Judge Boggs wasn’t Mr. Obama’s choice but rather the result of a deal struck with Georgia’s two Republican senators.

Mr. Carney said that deal cleared the way for Mr. Obama to nominate five women, including two blacks, to federal courts in Georgia.

“Our choice is clear. Do we work with Republican senators to find a compromise, or should we leave the seats vacant?” Mr. Carney said. “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.”

It’s usually Republicans who attack Mr. Obama’s judicial nominees, but now Democrats are accusing Judge Boggs of extreme views based on his time as a state legislator.

In addition to disavowing his votes on the state flag, Judge Boggs said he regrets voting for an amendment that would have required doctors to report the number of abortions they perform. He said he felt an obligation to represent his pro-life district in the state House.

Sen. Al Franken, Minnesota Democrat, said Judge Boggs‘ explanations were inconsistent. He said the judge earlier indicated in a private meeting that he voted only to put the flag to a referendum. Mr. Franken said that obscured a separate vote to defend the flag.

“I know you’ve been a judge for 10 years now and I hear wonderful things about you,” Mr. Franken said. “The thing that upsets me, or gave me some pause, is that we had this meeting, and in the meeting I felt that you gave me a little slight misrepresentation of your record on this.”

Judge Boggs said he considered his positions to be consistent: His constituents wanted to keep the flag and wanted to secure a referendum to give them a chance to make that statement.

He tried to assure senators that his legislative record was separate from the record he established as a trial and appellate judge in Georgia.

“I think my record demonstrates over the last 10 years that I’m faithful to never interject my personal opinion into decisions,” he said.

On the nomination of Mr. Barron, the law professor, lawmakers demanded access to memos he wrote as a Justice Department attorney laying out the legal justification for targeting American citizens in drone strikes.

Mr. Reid said two memos were turned over to the Senate and interested senators were reviewing the documents behind closed doors Tuesday. He said he would try to hold a floor vote soon.

Mr. Obama tapped Mr. Barron to serve on the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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