Progressives Officially Thwart Obama Judicial Nominee Michael Boggs

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President Barack Obama has told senators he won’t renominate Michael Boggs to be a federal judge in Georgia, marking a significant victory for progressive activists who raised hell over the nominee’s past conservative positions.

“It is with regret that we announce that the President will not re-nominate Judge Michael Boggs to the United States District Court for a third time. We were informed of the President’s decision by Denis McDonough, the President’s chief of staff, prior to Thanksgiving,” Georgia Sens. Johnny Isakson (R) and Saxby Chambliss (R) said in a joint statement on Tuesday. “We regret the President’s decision, as we have supported Judge Boggs throughout this process and remain steadfast in our support.”

Obama had nominated Boggs, a Georgia Court of Appeals judge and former state legislator, as part of a deal with Georgia’s two senators to fill federal judicial vacancies in the state. Progressives went to battle against the nomination, criticizing Boggs’ votes in the legislature against abortion and gay marriage, and in favor of maintaining the state’s Confederate battle flag.

Senate Democrats peppered Boggs with questions about those votes at his confirmation hearing in May, and emerged dissatisfied with his answers. One by one, numerous Democrats came out against him, and his nomination stalled indefinitely — he never came up for a vote in the Judiciary Committee. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also opposed Boggs.

“I don’t think my legislative record that’s over a decade old is indicative of what kind of judge I’d be,” Boggs said at the hearing.

The abortion rights group NARAL had led the charge against him, and Rep. David Scott (D-GA) torched Boggs over the Confederate flag vote.

“We’re pleased that the deep concerns of tens of thousands of people and over forty organizations were heard, and that there will be one less federal judge who puts his personal ideology ahead of the constitutional rights of all Americans,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue told TPM. “2015 will be a better year because Michael Boggs will not hold the fate of millions of Americans in his hands.”

The White House had urged progressives to focus on Boggs’ record as a state judge rather than his votes in the legislature, which it did not defend.

In their statement, Isakson and Chambliss praised Boggs’ judicial record.

“Judge Boggs has served the state with honor and integrity as an appellate and trial judge, and he has demonstrated a commitment to improving the criminal justice system through his work with the Georgia Criminal Justice Reform Council and Drug Courts. Throughout the process, Judge Boggs has exhibited enormous restraint and the temperament expected of a jurist. These traits will serve him well for the opportunities we are confident the future holds for Judge Boggs. We wish him the best and thank him for his service to the people of Georgia,” the senators said.

With Republicans taking over the Senate next week, Boggs might theoretically have been confirmed in 2015 despite Democratic opposition. But the GOP Senate will no longer have an opportunity to consider him.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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