Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Senate Confirms Julie Carnes to Eleventh Circuit by 94-0 Vote

R. Robin McDonald
Daily Report, July 21, 2014  

The U.S. Senate in a 94-0 vote late Monday confirmed U.S. District Court Chief Judge Julie Carnes as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit inSenate Confirms Julie Carnes to Eleventh Circuit by 94-0 Vote

Carnes was selected by Georgia's Republican Senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss as part of that package deal and is the first to be confirmed. Five of the other nominees – one for a second seat on the Eleventh Circuit, three for seats the Northern District of Georgia and one for a post on the Middle District of Georgia bench in Albany - have been approved by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and are awaiting confirmation votes by the U.S. Senate.

The judiciary committee has not yet voted to send to the Senate floor the nomination of one candidate – Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs, whom Chambliss had recommended to fill the post that Carnes will vacate now that she is moving to the Eleventh Circuit.

On Monday, before Carnes' confirmation vote, both Isakson and Chambliss took to the Senate floor to voice their unqualified support for her.

In his remarks, Isakson thanked both the president and the president's former White House counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, for accepting senators' recommendation of Carnes to the appellate bench.

"Julie Carnes is a very special lady," Isakson said. "Her nomination is a nomination of someone with immense capacity, outstanding integrity and outstanding ability."

Isakson referred to Carnes as a "Double Dawg" graduate of the University of Georgia – a designation meaning that Carnes received both her undergraduate and law degrees from UGA and one that she has publicly embraced.

"She is an outstanding individual and will be an outstanding judge on the bench," he said.

Carnes has been chief judge of the Northern District of Georgia since 2009. She was appointed as a district judge in 1992 by President George H. W. Bush after spending more than a decade as an assistant U.S. attorney in Atlanta where she served as appellate chief under three U.S. attorneys. She also served from 1990 to 1996 as one of seven members of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, a post to which Bush had also appointed her.

Isakson then paid a brief tribute to Carnes' late father, Charles Carnes, a former Georgia legislator who served as a Fulton County State Court judge, including a stint as chief judge, for 18 years before taking senior status. Charles Carnes died last October at age 86.

Isakson said that the elder Carnes was his mentor when Isakson was serving in the Georgia General Aseembly. "Up in heaven right now in the sunset, Charlie Carnes is looking down and getting ready to see his daughter confirmed by the U.S. Senate," Isakson said, adding that the late judge "is so proud."

"She is a chip off the old block," he said of his mentor's daughter. "She proves the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

Chambliss echoed Isakson's sentiments, telling the Senate at large that the younger Carnes' 22 years on the district court in Atlanta "has prepared her well for going to the Eleventh Circuit."

He, too, invoked Julie Carnes' legacy from her father. "Being a judge was in her blood," Chambliss said. "It's not difficult to imagine a more qualified circuit court nominee than Julie Carnes."

Chambliss also said that Julie Carnes, whom he referred to as "my dear friend," is a "consummate trial court judge" who has received accolades "from every single sector of the bar that appears before her."

Carnes told the Daily Report Monday night that she, her daughter, members of her staff and others watched the vote at the federal courthouse.

"It was very exciting and a little bit surreal," she said.

"I feel very honored and appreciative for the confidence that the Senate has shown with its vote to confirm me. I remain very grateful to President Obama for nominating me to the Eleventh Circuit, and I cannot express how much the support of Georgia's two senators, Senator Chambliss and Senator Isakson, means to me."

"I was particularly touched that they spoke so glowingly and warmly about my father," Carnes continued. "He would have been so proud and excited to watch the senators cast their votes for his daughter. ... I really miss him today."

Carnes said that when she takes her seat on the Eleventh Circuit bench she will be returning to the courtroom where she heard her first oral argument, while clerking for a judge on the Fifth Circuit. "There will be a certain symmetry to the transition," she said.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Carnes Moves a Step Toward Confirmation to Eleventh Circuit

R. Robin McDonald
Daily Report, July 17, 2014

The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted to close debate on the nomination of U.S. District Chief Judge Julie Carnes for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

The 68-23 cloture vote means that Carnes' nomination will proceed to a confirmation vote by the full Senate. Carnes' confirmation vote is scheduled to take place at 5:30 p.m. Monday, according to Senate Democrats.

Carnes' nomination and that of five other nominees to the federal bench in Georgia were placed on the Senate's executive calendar on Monday, signaling that the nominations are ready for consideration by the full body.

The other nominees include Jill Pryor, a partner at Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, who was first nominated to the Eleventh Circuit in February 2012 and then renominated in 2013 over the opposition of Georgia's two Republican senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson. The senators blocked Pryor's nomination until they reached a deal last fall with the White House that led to Carnes' nomination and allowed them to pick three candidates for what are now five open district court posts.

On June 19, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send the nominations of Pryor and Carnes to the Senate floor. That same day, the committee also approved the nominations of Troutman Sanders attorney Mark Cohen, DeKalb County State Court Judge Eleanor Ross, and attorney Leigh Martin May of the firm now known as Butler Wooten Cheeley & Peak for posts on the Northern District of Georgia. The panel also approved the nomination of assistant U.S. attorney Leslie Abrams for a slot on the Middle District of Georgia in Albany.

The judiciary committee did not vote on the nomination of Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs for the fourth open slot on the Northern District bench. Boggs' nomination became a matter of national controversy because of his conservative voting record on abortion and same-sex marriage while a Georgia legislator and his decision to allow his campaign to donate funds to a Georgia non-profit organization that has endorsed conservative Republican candidates and viewpoints.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

True Diversity Isn't Tokenism

Letter to the Editor:
True Diversity Isn't Tokenism:
It Builds Institutions and Merits Public Trust

Daily Report
July 10, 2014

To the Editors:

Robert Highsmith, a member of the state Judicial Nominating Commission, wrote a letter to the editor recently to defend the record on diverse appointments to the judiciary under the last two governors. ("Judicial diversity is strong under Georgia Republicans," Daily Report, June 18). His letter comes in response to a Daily Report article about a Continuing Legal Education program, sponsored by several organizations at the State Bar of Georgia annual meeting, of which Mr. Highsmith was a panelist.

The purpose of the CLE, titled "Diversity in the Judiciary," was to have a conversation about the issue as it pertains to Georgia's state and federal courts. The seminar started with a historical perspective provided by several attorneys and a Georgia legislator about what the face of the judiciary looked like prior to the Brooks litigation and what has happened to the courts since that time. The ensuing dialogue was designed to raise awareness amongst members of the bar about the lack of diversity in certain courts and the eroding diversity in others.

After a discussion about the court history, the panel on which Mr. Highsmith participated provided solutions that attorneys could implement to make diversity on the bench a priority and an achievable objective. The CLE was not intended to be an attack, as represented by the Daily Report headline, on the Judicial Nominating Commission, the governor or anyone connected with the process that appoints judges to the Georgia courts.

With that backdrop, Mr. Highsmith's letter purports to refute "harsh words" by several of the CLE panelists by focusing on a few individual appointments over a 12-year period. The appointments of Justice Harold Melton by Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2005 and of Judge Carla McMillan to the Court of Appeals by Gov. Nathan Deal were cited as examples of a strong record of diverse judicial appointments. Reference was also made to the appointments in DeKalb County of Judges Eleanor Ross and Dax Lopez to the State Court and Judge Asha Jackson to the Superior Court.

Mr. Highsmith's letter further highlighted three other female jurists appointed in DeKalb and Fulton counties in addition to Judges Ross and Jackson as well as the appointments of Judges Eric Richardson and Fred Eady to the State Court of Fulton County. He ended by touting the qualifications of the white male judges appointed to the Fulton Superior Court bench.

Not only is his reliance on a few noteworthy appointments predictable, but he also fails to consider the quantitative analysis of those appointments, the context of those appointments and to which courts those appointments were made.

Notably, Mr. Highsmith fails to acknowledge the growing lack of diversity of Georgia's judiciary. The state of Georgia is growing—the current population is estimated to be nearly 10 million. According to 2012 census figures, 51.1 percent of Georgia's population is female, 31.2 percent is African-American, 3.5 percent is Asian and 9.2 percent is Hispanic. Thus, more than 4.5 million of Georgia's residents are female and more than 3 million are African-American. People of Asian and Hispanic descent comprise more than 10 percent (or nearly 1 million) of the state's residents. It is in that context that claims about diversity must be considered.

The record of diverse appointments under the current governor leaves much room for improvement. Here are some sobering facts:

• Less than 5 percent of our current governor's judicial appointees to courts across the state have been African-Americans.

• Currently, African-Americans represent less than 10 percent of all of the Georgia Superior Court judges.

• Less than 2 percent of the members of the Judicial Nominating Commission on which Mr. Highsmith serves are African-American.

A few anecdotes about the context of the appointments and the courts to which the appointments were made, or in some cases not made, demonstrates the dysfunction of the judicial selection process in our state:

• Judge Asha Jackson, cited by Mr. Highsmith, was appointed in DeKalb County, but she was appointed only after two non-diverse gubernatorial appointees in the county lost bids for their re-election. One of those defeated appointees was subsequently appointed to the Fulton County Superior Court bench.

• Fulton County's most recent population estimate is 984,293—of that number 44.6 percent are African-American. In the last 12 years, three African-American judges have left the superior court bench in Fulton County without completing their terms of office, and neither Gov. Perdue nor Gov. Deal appointed a single African-American to fill any of those seats. As a result, the diversity on the Fulton County Superior Court bench is in sharp decline—in 2002, African-Americans held 44 percent of the judgeships, but now they hold only 30 percent.

• Another perfect example of the lack of diversity in the judicial appointment process is found in Muscogee County/Columbus. Of the more than 200,000 residents of Muscogee County, 46 percent are African-American. When the county's only African-American superior court judge recently retired, Gov. Deal appointed a non-diverse individual to fill his seat, leaving a county with such a large African-American population without a single African-American superior court judge.

• Mr. Highsmith spoke at the state bar about the current governor's preference for moving judges up. Yet when one of the African-American Fulton State Court appointees mentioned by Mr. Highsmith applied for a superior court seat, he was not appointed to the vacancy.

While no one disputes the character or quality of the judges appointed, the pattern of appointments to the courts in this state reflects diminishing diversity in communities with significant minority populations.

The judiciary has neither the sword nor the purse at its disposal. Its authority relies upon the trust of the people. When the most powerful courts in a community are not inclusive, it breeds an inherent distrust and alienation. And in communities where inclusion is declining, the problem is exacerbated.

The concept of diversity comes from a recognition that communities are strongest and government has the highest claim to legitimacy when it reflects the people it serves at a level that is meaningful. When a community does not have the opportunity to vote on the initial selection of judges on the courts—which has been the pattern over the last decade—it is even more imperative that the process used to select judges be fair, transparent and inclusive.1

In addition to considering diversity and inclusion when making appointments, governors should also consider the courts to which candidates are appointed. Every court in Georgia provides a service to its citizens. But the courts that are the heart of our communities are the superior courts. not every community has a state court, but there is a superior court in every county in Georgia.

Superior court judges decide fundamental issues that affect communities, such as the terms of divorces and who gets custody of children. When there are disputes in communities about taxes, elections, or the powers of government, they are heard by superior court judges. The true test of the commitment to diversity in the judiciary is what happens with appointments to those courts.

When communities elect their leaders, including judges, they get the government they choose. They have the power to choose to embrace diversity through their vote. While the Georgia Constitution mandates the election of judges, as Mr. Highsmith recognized, most judges take office through appointment. The power of incumbency is hard to overcome and it is for that reason that a commitment to diversity in appointments matters.

When a governor is given the responsibility of filling a judicial vacancy it is unlike any other appointment. When appointing to the executive branch he is building his team. But when filling judicial vacancies he is standing in for the electorate of a community. Consequently, he has an obligation to consider the community's makeup—not merely rewarding loyalty or cementing partisan advantage.

The usual response to calls for diversity is to assert that one is choosing the most qualified. The recent erosion in judicial diversity is certainly not due to a lack of qualified diverse candidates, but it appears that those most involved in the judicial nomination process have had little exposure to many of the great lawyers who are known to the organized African-American bar and who would make outstanding jurists.

A bench that is regressing in its inclusivity simply cannot be justified. There are thousands of lawyers from diverse backgrounds across the state and over the years. These lawyers have included the first African-American woman to be admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as the lawyers who led the battles to desegregate the state's universities, public schools and places of public accommodation.

Previously, African-American lawyers were appointed as trial and appellate judges; three of Atlanta's mayors, two presidents of the Atlanta Bar Association, partners in major Atlanta law firms, and the chief legal officers of major institutions such as United Parcel Service, Pepsico Inc. and The Home Depot are African-American. There are legions of other talented lawyers who play key roles in the efficient administration of justice. Any such claim that seeks to set up a conflict between merit and diversity is not real.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described what was then a new tactic being employed in the struggle for civil rights. The tactic he named was tokenism. "A judge here and a judge there; an executive behind a polished desk in a carpeted office; a high-placed government administrator with a toehold in a cabinet post."2

The goal of tokenism was to have a few stand for the many. It was yet another method of holding on to power and forestalling systemic change.

Tokenism relies upon the symbolism of isolated individuals. It seeks to retain power and buy peace with gestures. Diversity strives to build institutions that include and therefore merit the trust of the broad spectrum of the communities they serve.

A commitment to diversity requires one to consider whether, in a state with more than 3 million African-Americans, one African-American Judicial Nominating Commission member is sufficient to earn the trust of African-Americans.

Is the appointment of a judge here and a judge there, but few in those positions that command real power within their communities, consistent with a commitment to a diverse judiciary? When Muscogee County's more than 80,000 African-American citizens enter their superior court where there are no minority judges, are they likely to have confidence in the institution? The answers to those questions are the test of diversity.
Mawuli Mel Davis
Rev. Francys S. Johnson
Attorney panelists,
CLE seminar "Diversity on the Bench"
Thelma Wyatt Moore, president/CEO
Bettianne Hart, vice president
Advocacy for Action Inc.
Charles Johnson
Suzy Ockleberry
Advocacy for Action
Political Action Committee

1 "Enhancing Diversity in an Appointive System of Selecting Judges," Leo M. Romero, 34 Forham Urb. L.J. 485 (2007)

2 "Why We Can't Wait," Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1963)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Marcy Johnson Joins Jury for the 2014 Lillian Smith Book Awards

The Southern Regional Council (SRC) recently announced that thirty-nine books have been nominated for the Lillian Smith Book Awards for 2014 to be presented in Decatur, Georgia on August 31, 2014.

The jury for this year's awards includes Dr. Marcy D. Johnson. A native of Savannah Georgia, has over thirty years of diverse management experience and training with and a strong background in project management, decision support systems, web technologies, web/portal development and online applications; over eleven years of higher education experience; over five years distance learning program/course development; and, proven ability to design and direct complex resource information management programs/technical training programs. She served as the Chief Information Officer and Dean of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology at Bennett College for Women. Prior to going to Bennett College, she served as the CEO/President of Innovative Digital Solutions, Incorporated.  During her illustrious career, she held professional positions with Wang Laboratories, Department of the Army, Hewlett-Packard, and Ford Aerospace Communications.
Dr. Johnson received an undergraduate degree in mathematics from the University of Colorado and earned a Master of Science in Education from Indiana University. She received a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Instructional Technology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.  Her honors include: PHI KAPPA PHI, ALPHA KAPPA MU, WHO'S WHO IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (2001), and several other WHO'S WHO inclusions.  She served on the Tennessee Performing Arts Center Board of Directors, Urban League of Middle Tennessee Board of Directors (Vice Chairman), and Amun Ra Theatre Advisory Board. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Links, Inc., NAACP, and the Charlotte Chapter of the National Smart Set. She was a member of Societas Docta, Inc., and Metropolitan Nashville Chapter of National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc.
Dr. Johnson is married to the former president of Tennessee State University, Dr. Melvin N. Johnson.  The Johnsons have twin adult daughters, DeAndra Johnson Cullen (husband, Gary Cullen) and Monet Johnson Bloodworth (husband, Dr. Leotis Bloodworth, Jr.) and one adult son, M. Roschaun Johnson (wife, Phyllis C. Johnson).  Drs. Johnson are the proud grandparents of Briana N., Jailyn N., and Lauryn J. Bloodworth; Alaira M. Cullen; and, Schaun C.  and Joshua P. Johnson.

SRC was founded in 1919 to combat racial injustice in the South. SRC initiated the Lillian Smith Book Awards shortly after Smith's death in 1966 to recognize authors whose writing extends the legacy of the outspoken writer, educator and socialcritic who challenged her fellow Southerners and all Americans on issues of social and racial justice. Since 2004 the awards have been presented by SRC in a partnership with the University of Georgia Libraries, whose Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library houses a historic collection of Lillian Smith's letters and manuscripts. The Georgia Center for the Book became a partner in 2007, when the awards ceremony first became part of the Decatur Book Festival.