Michael P. Boggs Is Obama's Choice For U.S. District Judge, But His Closet Is Full Of Conservative Skeletons
Most eyes have been focused on #WhatJaySaidToSolange lately, but if you scroll through Twitter long enough you'll probably come across #StopBoggs, a social media plea to block President Obama's judicial nominee for U.S. District Court. Michael P. Boggs, who serves as a judge for Georgia's Court of Appeals, is currently entangled in a heated Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, and tensions are mounting both inside and outside the chamber. As Boggs fields questions on his track record, the socially conservative-leaning judge is under criticism from everyone from pro-choice advocacy groups to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"I can’t vote for him. This is a lifetime appointment," Reid said Wednesday in an interview with BuzzFeed. "He’s said some things and made some decisions I think are not very good.”
Those decisions happen to be associated with some of the most controversial issues facing present-day America: abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and the status of the Confederate flag. As such, Democratic senators are spending a little extra time on Boggs during his hearing, grilling him on his positions and previous voting record.
However, Boggs dismissed the relevancy of his political stances. "I don't think my legislative record that's over a decade old is indicative of what kind of judge I'd be [on the federal court]," he said during the hearing.
His track record, though, is noteworthy, especially at a time when abortion rights are getting pummeled in the courts and state legislatures.
After working as an attorney in the private sector, Boggs began his political career as a member of the Georgia State Assembly in 2001. During his brief tenure — he served until 2004 — Boggs sponsored a number of anti-abortion bills, including parental consent for minors with no exceptions for rape or incest; requiring a parent or legal guardian to accompany a minor to the clinic; and establishing pro-life license plates that would donate funds for crisis pregnancy centers.
Boggs also voted for an onerous anti-abortion bill that required doctors to publicly disclosed the number of abortions they perform — a common tactic used by anti-abortion activists that endangers the safety of doctors and their clinics. NARAL Pro-Choice America also claims Boggs voted for a "personhood" bill that would grant full rights to fertilized eggs.
On Tuesday, Boggs disavowed his vote on the public disclosure of abortions bill, saying he doesn't think "it would be appropriate to be listing the names of doctors." He did not mention whether his views have changed on the other anti-abortion legislation he previously voted for.
He added that, as a state judge, he only had one case related to abortion rights but it would be inappropriate to issue a ruling with his personal opinions.
It's not just his anti-abortion voting record that's under fire. Numerous senators and civil rights groups have criticized Boggs for supporting the use of the Confederate battle emblem on the Georgia flag. The state's flag prominently featured the Confederate symbol from 1956 until 2003, when the new and improved flag was approved.
During Tuesday's hearing, Majority Whip Dick Durbin questioned Boggs' views on the Confederate emblem. "Do you believe that Confederate flag issue had anything to do with the issue of race?" he asked.
Boggs admitted that he was offended by the flag and understood that many organizations that use it "espouse hate." However, he said that, as a freshman state legislator, he was under pressure to vote for his constituency.
Sen. Reid still remains unconvinced, telling Buzzfeed he needs "some explanations on why he did that deal with the rebel flag."
Boggs' voting record on same-sex marriage is also suspect. Boggs voted for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The amendment was referred to a statewide ballot in 2004, and passed with 69 percent of the vote.
Despite the opposition from some of the most powerful Democratic legislators, Obama reiterated his support for Boggs. "The president would disagree with any assessment by anyone that reached the conclusion that Judge Boggs is not qualified for this post," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a briefing Wednesday. "The president believes he is, or we would not have nominated him."