Should Democrats Oppose Michael Boggs?

I recently watched the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Michael Boggs, President Obama’s pick for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.  As a Democrat, I was appalled by the line of questioning by the Senate Democrats, who never steered away from attacking the pro-life views of the nominee to focus on other issues relevant to his qualifications.

It is one thing for abortion rights groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood to opposed candidates and judges who hold a pro-life position. They hold selfish reasons for doing so. Abortion is their livelihood. It is another thing for senators, who are charged with vetting judicial candidates, to ignore their responsibility and instead represent the minority views of one industry.   

Senators Blumenthal, Feinstein, Franken, and other Democrats repeatedly pointed to pro-life votes Democrat Michael Boggs cast as a Georgia state senator, completely ignoring his ten years on the state bench. Despite pleas from Judge Boggs to consider his record as a judge, the abortion questions continued. Judge Boggs stated:

“The best evidence of the type of judge I will be is the record of the type of judge I have been. I don’t think that my legislative record that’s over a decade old is indicative of what type of judge I might be on the Federal District Court.”

Instead, each Democratic senator repeated the same questions about Boggs’s votes on abortion, doing exactly what they were accusing him of doing. They, not Judge Boggs, showed an inability to put their personal views on abortion aside and consider the nominee for his record as a judge.

Sadly, it took a Republican Member to look more broadly at his record. Judge Boggs was given an opportunity to enlighten the panel on the award he received for his work on the Criminal Justice Reform Council. Judge Boggs spoke of his commitment to improving the judicial system for those with substance abuse and mental health problems and his advocacy for job training and better equipping those in the judicial system to become active members of society, thereby reducing recidivism rates.

But, Senate Democrats did not ask for more on his work to improve the criminal justice system, and continued the monotonous line of questioning about Judge Boggs abortion votes nearly a decade ago.

They did not question or consider areas of importance for a judicial nominee, such as his approach to constitutional interpretation (on issues other than abortion) or the use of legislative history, or his record as a sitting judge.  They not consider that the American Bar Association rated him “Well Qualified” for the position. The Democrats attacking him had already made up their mind do to the abortion industry’s bidding. He is pro-life and therefore disqualified.

Never mind that these attacks send the message to pro-life Democratic lawyers that they should look for another party not just if they want to run for office, but if they are interested in serving in any significant government legal position. “Get out of the party” is, sadly, exactly the message that these senators want to send.

As a district judge, Judge Boggs would be severely constrained to follow Supreme Court precedent. During his hearing, he confirmed that he would not seek to enact his personal views and would uphold Supreme Court precedent. When asked again and again if he uphold the Constitutional right to abortion, he responded, “Judges should not be policy makers.”

Well, Senators, judges should not be policy makers. But it is also true that policy makers should not judge a nominee if they cannot be impartial on the issue of abortion. The President nominated Michael Boggs and, yes, the Senate should confirm him. Senate Democrats need to put away their abortion litmus-test glasses and judge this nominee in a fair and impartial way.