Senate set to confirm 3 Georgia judicial nominees

DeKalb County State Court Judge Eleanor Ross, Atlanta attorney Mark Cohen and Atlanta Assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie Joyce Abrams cleared procedural votes Monday evening.

Dozens of Republicans voted “no” Monday amid a dispute over procedure with Senate Democrats, but the nominees’ confirmations are expected to be unanimous.

Georgia Republican U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson — who both voted in favor of the nominees — negotiated a group of seven judicial nominees with the White House after some nominations had been stalled for years. But one member of the group, Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs, has been blocked by Democrats and remains in limbo because of his record as a conservative Democrat in the state Legislature on abortion, gay rights and keeping the former state flag with the Confederate battle emblem.

In a statement, Isakson said Abrams, Cohen and Ross “have had distinguished careers across the public and private sector, and they will serve the people of Georgia with great honor.”

“Additionally,” the senator said, “I remain 100 percent supportive of Georgia nominee Michael Boggs and will continue to work on his nomination.”

Ross and Cohen will sit on the U.S. District Court in Atlanta, while Abrams will serve in Albany. Ross and Abrams will be Georgia’s first African-American female federal judges.

Ross was appointed to the bench in 2011 after serving as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and in Fulton County. She was part of the investigation into the Atlanta Public Schools test cheating scandal. More recently, she has run a diversionary program for young first-time offenders called “Alternative Path.”

Cohen, a partner at Troutman Sanders, defended Georgia’s Voter ID law in court, which drew some complaints from the left when he was nominated. But Cohen did so at the request of African-American Democratic Attorney General Thurbert Baker.

In the 1990s Cohen was chief counsel and executive secretary to Gov. Zell Miller, a Democrat, though he later served on the transition team for Attorney General Sam Olens, a Republican.

Abrams has been a federal prosecutor for more than four years, focusing on major crimes and economic crimes, while also coordinating community outreach for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Abrams is the sister of state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, and has been active in Democratic politics.

Democrats in the Senate Judiciary Committee are blocking Boggs from consideration, but he could fare better next year in a Republican-run Senate. Still, President Barack Obama would have to renominate Boggs and again face the backlash from his own party.

A White House spokesman would not say whether Obama plans to renominate the judge.

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