4 Reasons President Obama Will Regret Tapping a Conservative Judge

Nominee Michael P. Boggs disavows votes for the Confederate flag and anti-abortion bills, but Democrats are not convinced.

Georgia Appeals Court Judge Michael P. Boggs, whom President Barack Obama has nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Georgia
Georgia Appeals Court Judge Michael P. Boggs, whom President Barack Obama has nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Georgia Diego M. Radzinschi/The National Law Journal

Obama’s Deal With Republicans Threatens His Legacy, Minorities and Women

The News: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday stood against one of President Barack Obama’s nominees to a federal court in Georgia, citing the candidate’s past support of the Confederate flag and opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.

“Unless I have a better explanation, I can’t vote for him,” Reid told BuzzFeed. “This is a lifetime appointment. He’s said some things and made some decisions I think are not very good.”

The Senate’s refusal to confirm Michael P. Boggs, a conservative Georgia Court of Appeals judge, woud jeopardize the White House’s broader plan to fill numerous judgeships—some of which would go to African Americans—long vacant because of Republican obstructionism and Obama’s lack of attention.  

Civil rights leaders, black members of Congress and pro-choice groups have demanded that Obama withdraw Boggs’ nomination because of his voting record as a Georgia state legislator. But the White House maintains its support for Boggs and cites his work on criminal-justice reform (pdf) as an example of his qualifications for the federal bench.

The Take: Why is the president ignoring his staunchest supporters to offer one of their archenemies—and one of his, really—a lifetime appointment to the federal bench?

Because Obama struck an agreement with Georgia’s Republican senators to back Boggs in exchange for their approval of Obama’s five other judicial nominees, two of whom are black women: Assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie Joyce Abrams and state court Judge Eleanor Ross.

It’s another example of Obama’s pragmatism leading him to cut a deal that is overly generous to his adversaries. Here are four reasons that Boggs’ confirmation could come back to haunt Obama and threaten his legacy (think court challenges to the Affordable Care Act) and legal protections for minorities (voting rights), women and LGBT people:

1. As a DINO (Democrat in name only) state legislator, Boggs voted to keep the Confederate battle insignia on Georgia’s state flag. Yet he told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that he was “offended” by the ole Stars and Bars and said, “I am glad the flag was changed.” Of course he is—now. If he’d cast the vote anytime between the Jim Crow era and 1970s Georgia, his apparent evolution would be more believable. But this was 2001. (The flag change was pushed by his own party. It succeeded, but the backlash cost Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes his office and political career.) This doesn’t bode well for Boggs’ being an independent-minded jurist and would raise concerns for plaintiffs coming before him in racial-discrimination or voter-suppression cases.