Friday, November 14, 2014

Senate Confirms Leigh Martin May as District Judge

R. Robin McDonald,
Daily Report, November 13, 2014

The U.S. Senate voted 98-0 Thursday to confirm Atlanta attorney Leigh Martin May as a U.S. District judge for the Northern District in Atlanta.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted to close debate on May's nomination, which had been delayed by a Senate filibuster since September. Prior to Wednesday's vote, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) took the floor to praise May, a longtime partner with personal injury law firm Butler Wooten Cheeley & Peak.

Calling May "an unbelievably exciting, unbelievably knowledgeable, unbelievably accomplished individual," Isakson said that May had both his support and that of Georgia's other senator, Saxby Chambliss.

In urging his colleagues to close debate so the full Senate can vote on May's confirmation, Isakson also described her as "a very talented, very deserving person" whom the American Bar Association has unanimously rated as qualified to hold a federal judgeship.

May graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with honors in 1993 before earning her law degree in 1998 from the University of Georgia School of Law. From 1998-2000, May clerked for U.S. District Judge Dudley Bowen Jr. in the Southern District of Georgia in Augusta. Bowen, now a senior judge, was appointed to the bench by President Jimmy Carter in 1979.

Isakson said that in [the month of] May, when he spoke at the University of Georgia's graduation ceremony, UGA's law school dean "came up to me and said, 'I just want you to know, Mr. Isakson, you nominated one of the smartest people to ever graduate from the law school of the University of Georgia when you nominated Leigh May.'"

"I can't think of a higher or better recommendation, and I commend Leigh May to my colleagues of the Senate with my highest recommendation," Isakson said,

Isakson also thanked President Barack Obama and Obama's former White House counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, who helped broker a deal that included May between the White House and Georgia's senators last year. In return for allowing May's nomination to the district court bench and that of Atlanta attorney Jill Pryor to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta, Isakson and Chambliss selected candidates for a second seat on the Eleventh Circuit and three more seats on the Northern District bench. In July, the Senate confirmed then-U.S. District Court Chief Judge Julie Carnes to the Eleventh Circuit. Pryor was confirmed in September.

Despite Isakson's urging, 30 Republican senators voted unsuccessfully to continue the filibuster of May's nomination.

On Wednesday, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), called for votes to end filibusters of three other Georgia judicial nominees who currently awaiting confirmation by the full Senate. Troutman Sanders partner Mark Cohen and DeKalb County State Court Judge Eleanor Ross are awaiting Senate votes for U.S. District Court Northern District of Georgia. Leslie Abrams, an assistant U.S. attorney in Atlanta, is awaiting confirmation for a seat in the Middle District of Georgia in Albany.

The final nominee in the compromise package—Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs—has been stalled in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee since last summer after Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he didn't have the votes to send Boggs' nomination to the full Senate for a confirmation vote. Boggs' ascension to the federal bench stalled in the face of national objections based on his voting record as a state legislator, including his support for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Georgia and a strong opposition to reproductive rights that included support for a bill that would establish a public registry on the Internet of doctors who performed abortions.

This week, Isakson told the Huffington Post in Washington that he "supported Mr. Boggs before and I would support him again… but that's up to the president."

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