Civil rights groups lambasted for silence on Obama nominees

Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) said Wednesday civil rights groups “should hold their heads in shame” for not aggressively opposing some of President Obama’s judicial nominees.

Scott and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus have been rallying against prospective judges Obama chose for the federal bench in Georgia. While black lawmakers have clearly voiced their opposition to these nominees, civil rights groups have been more withdrawn.

“If Frederick Douglass were here, he’d be fighting against this. If Martin Luther King were here, he’d be fighting against this,” Scott said in an interview Wednesday on Roland Martin’s radio show. 

Martin said he sent emails to leading civil rights groups Tuesday asking for their positions on the issue.

“Hilary Shelton responded and said the NAACP is opposed to these nominees," Martin said. "I got no response from the National Urban League. I got no response from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights."

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Shelton serves as director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau. He did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment on Wednesday.

The NAACP’s national office hasn’t released a firm statement about the nominees, but two of its representatives in Georgia spoke out against them in October.

“What your audience needs to understand is the level of disrespect that this president has done to this nation on these appointments,” Scott added. 

One nominee, Michael Boggs, voted to keep Georgia's 1956 state flag, which displayed a Confederate battle emblem. Another, Mark Cohen, successfully defended the state’s voter ID law in court.

Some of the conservative nominees were selected as a result of a deal the White House reached with Georgia’s two Republican senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson. If Obama offered three GOP-backed nominees, the senators said they would accept Obama’s picks they had previously held up. 

“Let me be frank here. I’m proud of this first black president. I love this first black president. But when you are hurt by the one you love, there’s no greater pain than that,” Scott said. “The President of the United States needed to have stood up to these white Republican senators and said ‘I can’t put a man on the court that wanted to keep the flag of slavery, and oppression and racism — the most visible of hatred of black people on my court. Black people, they’re my people.’ I don’t want him going down in history as having done that, but he will if we don’t rise up and save it from him.” 

Last week, a coalition of 27 abortion rights, gay rights and some civil rights groups, spearheaded by NARAL Pro-Choice America, sent a letter to Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to oppose the nomination of Boggs to one of Georgia’s federal courts.

“Boggs’s record," the groups argued, shows he “lacks a demonstrated commitment to fairness and equal justice with respect to issues of reproductive freedom, civil rights, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality.”

In January, Scott asked Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to testify against the prospective judges. Martin asked Scott on Wednesday when that would happen.

“Just as soon as I can hear from Sen. Leahy to do this. But that will never happen unless there is more pressure brought to bear,” Scott said.

Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus earlier this month to reassure them the president is committed to appointing a diverse set of nominees. Scott said he asked Jarrett for Obama to withdraw the nominees, but he said she didn’t say anything in response.

On Wednesday, Scott said these picks will tarnish Obama’s legacy.

“I think, in history, President Obama will look back, and thank us for saving him from this very, very tragic and terrible mistake that will mark his presidency in the rest of the nation’s history.”

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