By R. Robin McDonald
Daily Report, October 11, 2013
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.
A White House official told the Daily Report last week that the White House had replied to the strongly worded letter and planned to meet with the congressmen. Scott aide Michael Andel confirmed that the meeting took place today. He had no further information.
Georgia's Congressional Democrats sent the letter to the White House after reading a Sept. 10 story in the Daily Report that identified six potential nominees for the federal judiciary whose names had been forwarded to the White House for approval. The names were submitted as part of a deal approved by Georgia's Republican U.S. senators. Four of the six proposed nominees were candidates selected by Georgia's Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson.
In their letter to Ruemmler, the Democratic congressmen said they learned of the potential deal from the Daily Report and felt they had been excluded from the selection process despite unsuccessful attempts to seek meetings with White House staff on how best to fill the vacant judgeships. The letter was signed by U.S. Representatives John Lewis, Hank Johnson, David Scott, Sanford Bishop and John Barrow.
Their letter also complained that although they have submitted several candidates during the last two sessions of Congress, "Our Senate colleagues put none of these names forward."
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.