TWO OF President Obama’s judicial nominees are having trouble. But this time, Democrats are behind much of the obstruction.
Michael Boggs, a Georgia state judge and former state legislator, is taking heat from liberals for his previous stands on a slew of sensitive social issues. David Barron, a Harvard law professor, has seen the approval of his nomination folded into a broader fight about the use of drones to kill terrorism suspects.
Overheated opposition is wrong regardless of whether liberals or conservatives are behind it. Unless more comes out that seriously implicates either man’s qualifications and temperament, the record does not suggest that these nominees are unqualified to serve.
Mr. Boggs, who is nominated for a federal district court position in northern Georgia, has been a judge for more than a decade, and he has a notable record on criminal justice reform. But senators seem to be more interested in things he said as a state lawmaker. In the legislature, he supported putting Confederate imagery on Georgia’s state flag, favored a measure that would list doctors who performed abortions and said some obnoxious things about gay and lesbian rights. In his confirmation hearing, he distanced himself from these positions. Even if he had not, though, the focus should be on his judicial performance, not his legislative history. “The best evidence of the type of judge I will be is the record of the type of judge I have been,” he said at his confirmation hearing Tuesday. “I don’t think that my legislative record that’s more than a decade old is indicative of what type of judge I will be.”
If Mr. Boggs seems like an odd choice for Mr. Obama, it is because his nomination was part of a broader deal with Republicans to fill seven judicial vacancies, including two on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Now that the president has nominated all seven, the deal does not bind individual senators to vote for every one of them. Senators should, however, be bound by the principle that qualified presidential nominees deserve their deference and consent.
Mr. Barron, whom the president picked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, seems to be in less trouble, but his nomination has still been hobbled by concerns over memos he wrote at the Justice Department defending Mr. Obama’s policy on targeted drone killings. By various accounts, they are not nearly as controversial as, say, the Bush-era “torture memos” were. Nevertheless, activists and senators from both sides have been squabbling about getting full access to the classified documents as they consider Mr. Barron’s nomination, which has been associated with the broader political battle about U.S. drone policy. That conflation is not fair.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has set a vote on Mr. Barron in the coming days. Senators should confirm him. Mr. Boggs, meanwhile, has yet to move out of the Judiciary Committee. He, too, should get the votes he needs.