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.