Obama’s Georgia judicial nominees get confirmation hearing

President Barack Obama’s seven nominees for judicial vacancies in Georgia will get their long-awaited confirmation hearings Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Obama submitted the nominees as part of a compromise with Georgia’s two Republican senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson. Two nominees, Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs and Atlanta lawyer Mark Cohen, have come under fire by liberal and civil rights groups. But last week, the White House said it stands firmly behind all nominees.

Two of Obama’s nominees are for the 11th U.S. District Court of Appeals in Atlanta:

Julie Carnes

Carnes, 63, was nominated by President George H.W. Bush in 1991 to the U.S. District Court bench in Atlanta where she now serves as chief judge. Her father was the late Charles Carnes, who presided 17 years as chief judge of Fulton County’s State Court. Before taking the bench, Julie Carnes was a federal prosecutor and served as chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office appellate division. From 1990 to 1996, she was a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, helping set guidelines for criminal penalties. As a judge, Carnes has presided over numerous high-profile cases, such as the prosecution of three ex-Atlanta police officers for an illegal drug raid in which a terrified 92-year-old woman was killed by police bullets.

Jill Pryor

Pryor, 51, is a partner for the Atlanta law firm Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore and is a past president of the Georgia Association for Women Lawyers. After graduating from Yale Law School, Pryor worked as a law clerk for 11th Circuit Judge J.L. Edmondson. She later served on the 11th Circuit’s Lawyers Advisory Committee. She has chaired the State Bar of Georgia’s Appellate Practice Section, co-founded the American Institute of Appellate Practice and served on the ACLU of Georgia’s legal committee. In 2008, she was a member of the legal team that won a $281 million jury verdict for Texas businessman David McDavid in a breach-of-contract lawsuit involving the sale of the Atlanta Hawks and Thrashers.

Four of Obama’s nominees are for the U.S. District Court in Atlanta and one is for the court in Macon:

Leslie Joyce Abrams

Abrams, 39, the nominee for the federal court vacancy in Macon, is the sister of state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta. Since 2010, Leslie Abrams has worked as an assistant U.S. Attorney in Atlanta. During much of her time there, she served as the office’s community outreach coordinator. Since 2012, she has been a member of the office’s major crimes section and prosecuted defendants charged with violent offenses and crimes against children. Over the past several years, Abrams has driven voters to the polls, worked telephone banks and knocked on doors for Obama’s presidential campaigns and for past campaigns involving her sister and presidential candidates Al Gore and John Kerry.

Michael Boggs

Boggs, 51, has served as a judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals since 2012, when he was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal. Before that, Boggs presided as a Superior Court judge in Waycross, where he established a specialized drug court. In the early 2000s, while a state representative, he supported measures to keep the Confederate battle emblem on the state flag, display the Ten Commandments at county courthouses and allow voters to approve a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. He recently headed a state criminal justice reform council; its proposals led to sweeping reforms designed to reserve prison for the most dangerous criminals and deal with nonviolent offenders in other ways.

Mark Cohen

Cohen, 58, is a partner at the Atlanta law firm Troutman Sanders. In the 1990s, Cohen served as executive counsel and executive secretary for Gov. Zell Miller. Before that, he served as a chief state administrative law judge and worked in the state Attorney General’s Office. He once served as treasurer and campaign manager for state Supreme Court Justice Carol Hunstein and was a member of Attorney General-elect Sam Olens’ transition team. He has been involved in numerous high-profile cases, such as defending the state against a class-action lawsuit that alleged systemic deficiencies in metro Atlanta’s foster care system and defending Georgia’s voter-ID law for former Attorney General Thurbert Baker.

Leigh Martin May

May, 43, is a partner at Butler, Wooten & Fryhofer, one of Georgia’s most successful plaintiffs’ law firms. May has been active in the Democratic Party of Georgia, doing campaign work for various candidates and hosting or co-hosting fundraisers. As a lawyer, she has represented catastrophically injured clients in products liability litigation against automakers and represented whistle-blowers who claimed that several large banks defrauded veterans and the U.S. government in home refinance loans. Since 2004, May has volunteered for GreenLaw, providing free environmental legal services to non-profits and community groups.

Eleanor Ross

Ross, 46, has served as a DeKalb County State Court judge since 2011, when she was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal. Before that, she served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Atlanta and a prosecutor in the Fulton District Attorney’s Office. At the DA’s office, she was part of the special investigation team looking into allegations of test-cheating at the Atlanta Public Schools system. Also while a Fulton prosecutor, Ross obtained murder convictions in high-profile cases against Devonni “Devo” Benton for killing Spelman College student Jasmine Lynn in 2009 and against members of violent street gangs. Since 2012, Ross has run “Alternative Path,” a diversionary program for young first-time offenders facing minor charges.