Michael Boggs, President Barack Obama’s controversial judicial nominee, said Tuesday he would not let his personal beliefs guide his decision-making if confirmed to the U.S. District Court bench in Atlanta.
Boggs was questioned repeatedly about his support for anti-abortion measures, his vote opposing the removal of the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag and his support for an amendment banning same-sex marriage while a state legislator in the early 2000s. But he repeatedly said his would not let his Christian faith or personal views influence his decisions as a judge.
“It wouldn’t implicate my decision-making at all,” Boggs said.
On his support of the amendment to ban same-sex marriage, Boggs acknowledged that was his “personal opinion” at the time and the will of his constituents. “My position on that … may or may not have changed since that time, as many people’s have over the past decade,” he added.
On his vote against removing the Confederate battle emblem, Boggs said he followed his constituents’ wishes because they supported having a referendum to decide what Georgia’s flag should look like.
Boggs said he was “offended” by the Confederate emblem on the flag and knew it was a reminder of the institution of slavery and was used by hate groups that espoused “overt racism.” He said he agonized over the issue and voted against his personal conscience when voting against the emblem’s removal.
“I’m glad the flag was changed,” Boggs said. “It reflected something Georgia could do better with.”
Still, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., told Boggs he found inconsistencies in his explanations for his votes against removing the battle emblem. In a private meeting before the Senate hearing, Franken noted, Boggs said he voted the way he did to support the will of his constituents who overwhelmingly wanted a referendum.
But Boggs twice voted against removing the Confederate battle emblem and on one of those occasions there was no referendum attached to the measure, Franken noted. And after one vote, Boggs told a local newspaper he voted the way he did because his constituents opposed the removal of the emblem, Franken said.
“I hear wonderful things about you,” Franken said. “The thing that gave me some pause is that we had this meeting and in this meeting you gave me a slight misrepresentation on this.”
Boggs, now a judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals, was one of seven Obama nominees to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senators reserved almost all of their questions for Boggs, whose nomination is being strongly opposed by civil rights and abortion rights groups.
A number of senators expressed great concern over Boggs’ vote, as a state representative, in favor of posting on the Internet the names of doctors who performed abortions and the number of times they terminated a pregnancy. Boggs said he now regrets that vote. “It was ill-advised,” he testified.
But Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who chaired the hearing, asked Boggs if he considered the public safety implications of disclosing the names. Franken noted that abortion doctors whose names had been disclosed had been murdered.
When Boggs said he was not aware of the public safety implications at the time of his vote, several senators expressed surprise.
The Senate committee is expected to vote on the nominees in a week or so.
Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., a member of the Judiciary Committee, told Boggs she may not be able to vote for his confirmation.
“I want you to know that for my vote I have to have certainty,” she said. “I don’t know quite how to get it in view of this record.”
This morning’s hearing began with brief testimony from Chief U.S. District Court Judge Julie Carnes and Atlanta lawyer Jill Pryor — Obama’s nominees to fill two vacancies on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
They were followed by five nominees for the U.S. District Court bench: Boggs, Assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie Abrams, DeKalb County State Court Judge Eleanor Ross and Atlanta lawyers Leigh Martin May and Mark Cohen.
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