More than a month after President Obama nominated six candidates to federal judicial posts in Georgia, the state's two Republican senators have yet to return "blue slips" signaling their approval to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, a committee aide said.
As a result, the judiciary committee—which began holding hearings Jan. 8 on nominees from other states whose names the president submitted at the same time as the Georgia nominees—has not yet scheduled confirmation hearings for two nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and four nominees to the Northern District of Georgia trial court bench, according to the aide.
On Tuesday, the judiciary committee was holding confirmation hearings for six Arizona nominees to fill judicial posts that have been designated by the U.S. Administrative Office of Courts as emergency vacancies. Two of Georgia's district court seats have been designated as emergency vacancies.
U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson have not signaled their approval of the list of Georgia judicial nominees even though the slate of six names was part of a compromise deal that the White House struck with them late last year.
On Tuesday, Isakson spokeswoman Lauren Culbertson said, "Senator Isakson believes that it is appropriate to allow the chairman and the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee to review the background investigation paperwork of the six nominees before he returns all six blue slips." Aides to Chambliss declined to comment Tuesday on the lack of action.
That package deal presumably was to have lifted a longtime hold the senators had placed on the president's nomination of Atlanta attorney Jill Pryor, a partner at Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, to the Eleventh Circuit. Pryor was first nominated in February 2012 and renominated last year despite the senators' opposition.
Oy. Meantime, the Black Caucus isn't happy about the lack of diversity for nominees in Alabama:
Nationally, 106 of the 874 federal judges are black, including those on senior status.
In Alabama, the letter said, “Sixty-four judges have served on Alabama’s district court bench since districts were first established in 1824. Of this number, only three have been African-American.”
There are district court vacancies in Montgomery and Huntsville as well as a vacancy on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Caucus members said Obama should nominate black candidates to fill the district court vacancies, which would make the federal bench in Alabama 21.4 percent black.
The letter’s focus on Alabama was especially noteworthy for Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“Our record of black judicial appointments in Alabama is particularly appalling, given that African-Americans make up 26 percent of the population,” Sewell said Wednesday.
The state’s only black federal judge, Abdul Kallon of Birmingham, is considered a likely candidate for Obama to nominate to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which would create a third district court vacancy.