Friday, September 27, 2013

A Plea for Inclusiveness in Federal Judicial Selection

August 27, 2013

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500

Re: United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia

Dear President Obama:

Advocacy for Action ("AFA") is not-for-profit social welfare organization established by a joint task force under the auspices of two of Georgia’s leading legal societies – the Gate City Bar Association and the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys – to educate the public on the importance of assuring that our judiciary continues to be accountable and representative. Our associations and their members have a keen interest in the quality of justice as it is administered in our federal courts. We believe that, to be accountable, the bench must be populated with highly qualified individuals who are representative of the communities that they serve. The degree to which this goal is achieved is one of the most important standards by which the legacy of any President should be measured.

By this standard, Georgia’s federal courts have much room for improvement. While African-Americans comprise over 31% of the State’s population, they comprise only 19% of the State’s active federal judges. Moreover, there has never been a Black female judge on any federal bench in this State. The Northern District of Georgia presents the best opportunity to remedy this disparity, as it has the largest number of judicial positions, the largest number of judicial vacancies and, by far, the largest number of African-American lawyers. 

The organized black bar is uniquely positioned to assist you in identifying outstanding judicial candidates of diverse backgrounds. Sadly, however, the process of filling the current vacancies on the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia has involved little in the way of consultation with the organized black bar. We can only assume, based on the results to date, that those most involved in the appointment process have little exposure to many of the great lawyers who are known to us.

Such a flawed process has the potential to produce a highly unfortunate outcome. In this connection, we are highly disturbed about the agreement which you have reportedly been asked to approve for the Northern District. Your previous nominations of two black females having been returned to you, this reported agreement would involve the addition of four new district judges, one of whom is known for his advocacy against voting rights and in favor of voter suppression, and only one of whom is a Black female. The resulting Black percentage of Georgia’s federal bench would be 20%, still far below a level that is in any way representative.

While Georgia’s Senators may have previously blocked African American female nominees to the bench, we nevertheless urge the Administration not to capitulate to a compromise that decreases the number of African American female nominees to one. Rather, we urge the Administration nominate and fully support two exemplary African-American female candidates who live and practice in the Northern District and who are sensitive to our community’s concerns regarding important issues such as discrimination, voting rights, and the sentencing of criminal defendants.  

One such exemplary African American female jurist is the Honorable Linda Thompson Walker, who currently serves as a Magistrate for the Northern District of Georgia. Judge Walker previously had the full support of the Georgia Senators, and we see no reason why that support should have waned. If for some reason Judge Walker is no longer an option for a consideration, there are several stellar candidates that we are prepared to recommend to you and the White House Counsel. 

In the interest of leaving a judicial legacy of which you and our community can be proud, we implore this Administration to ensure that two additional African American females are nominated and appointed to the federal bench in the Northern District of Georgia, and we welcome the opportunity to meet with White House Counsel or other members of your staff to discuss the matter further. 

Very Truly Yours,

Advocacy for Action


Charles S. Johnson

Suzanne W. Ockleberry

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