President Obama is trying to get other judges on the 11th Circuit. But it's a slog. Here's the latest from the Robin McDonald:
Georgia's Congressional Democrats met Thursday in Washington with staff of the Office of White House Counsel to discuss Georgia's open federal judgeships, an aide to U.S. Rep. David Scott confirmed.
The meeting took place after Georgia's five Democratic House members sent a letter on Sept. 17 to President Barack Obama's White House counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, expressing their shock and disappointment over a proposed list of six candidates for federal judgeships in Georgia, including two open seats on the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and four seats on the District Court.
... In their letter to the White House counsel, the Democratic congressmen insisted it is "essential" that they participate in selecting candidates for nomination to the federal bench "to ensure a representative federal judiciary in Georgia."
The current slate of proposed nominees includes one African-American woman for the District Court, three white women—two for the Eleventh Circuit and one for a District Court seat—and two white men for the District Court.
Georgia lawyers familiar with the nomination process who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the negotiations have told the Daily Report that the proposed nominees for two open seats on the Eleventh Circuit are:
• Jill Pryor, a partner at Atlanta's Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore whom President Obama has twice nominated to an open post on the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
• U.S. District Court Chief Judge Julie Carnes of the Northern District of Georgia, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1992.
U.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson have, so far, blocked Pryor's nomination, but as part of the deal agreed to waive their objections in return for Carnes' appointment and three nominees of their choosing for the Northern District of Georgia bench.
Carnes' nomination, if confirmed, would create a fourth vacancy on the District Court bench in Atlanta, where three judges who took senior status in 2009, 2010 and this year have yet to be replaced.
The senators' picks for the Northern District are:
• Troutman Sanders partner Mark Cohen, whose name the senators put forth first in 2010 for the Northern District bench and then in 2011 for the Eleventh Circuit after he defended Georgia's voter identification law in a federal lawsuit;
• DeKalb County State Court Judge Eleanor Ross, a former prosecutor who was appointed to the bench by Governor Nathan Deal in 2011 and the only African-American on the list;
• Judge Michael Boggs of the Georgia Court of Appeals , a former Superior Court judge from the Waycross Judicial Circuit in the Southern District of Georgia and a Deal appointee to the appeals court.
The only Democratic nominee for the District Court is Leigh Martin May, a personal injury and product liability attorney at Butler Wooten & Fryhofer.
The Miami Herald ran an op-ed earlier in the week, titled: "Blacks lack presence on federal court." Here's the intro:
The government shutdown epitomizes the dysfunction caused by a small faction of Congress. But for federal judicial nominations, which require the “advice and consent” of the Senate, obstruction is nothing new. The confirmation process has been broken for some time. The result is a judicial vacancy crisis that harms the administration of justice and, just as important, the diversity of the federal bench.
Sen. Marco Rubio has blocked the nomination of William Thomas to Florida’s federal district court. Thomas is the first openly gay African-American nominee to any federal court. Sen. Rubio’s own 64-member judicial search commission supported Thomas as did the senator, initially. Sen. Rubio has now withdrawn his support, effectively denying Thomas a confirmation vote by the Senate. This obstruction, in the face of a superbly qualified candidate, is cause for great concern. But it is not the only issue looming for Florida’s federal judiciary.
Another issue concerns the racial diversity of judges on the federal appellate court that serves Florida, Georgia and Alabama, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. With the ever-shrinking docket of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Eleventh Circuit is effectively the court of last resort for residents of these states. Twenty-five percent of the residents are African-American, giving the Eleventh Circuit the highest percentage of African Americans of any circuit court in the country.
Although there are 12 judicial seats on the Eleventh Circuit, only one is held by an African American. Judge Charles Wilson, from Florida, was appointed by President Clinton in 1999.
Only one other African American has ever served on this court. The Eleventh Circuit was created in 1981, when Congress divided six states comprising the Fifth Circuit into two circuits. At that time, Judge Joseph Hatchett, also a Floridian and the only African American on the Fifth Circuit, was reassigned to the Eleventh. When he retired, Judge Wilson took his place.
In other words, the number of African-American judges sitting today on the Eleventh Circuit is the same as it was more than 30 years ago. This should concern everyone who cares about ensuring that our federal judiciary reflects the diversity of our nation and that our courts inspire confidence among our communities. Given its substantial African-American population, and the large pool of superbly qualified African-American attorneys and judges from which to select an appellate judge, the Eleventh Circuit should have more than one African-American jurist by this time.