Most of the conversation about President Barack Obama’s judicial nominations these days focuses on the unprecedented Republican push to block even those candidates with meticulous professional and personal qualifications. Although there are still regrettable incidents of “false equivalence” in the reporting of now-routine GOP filibusters of these nominees, there seems to be a growing consensus that the tactic in the Senate is as nihilistic as was the House’s government shutdown: You can’t have a rule of law without enough judges.
Another theme that has attracted some attention about judicial nominations, a counter-theme you could call it, posits that the White House initially did a poor job of quickly and efficiently nominating judicial candidates. There is no doubt that this was true—but that it was more true during the president’s first term than it is today. The pace of these nominations has picked up—at last surpassing the pace of George W. Bush—and so, too have the number of candidates who are persons of color. Obama now is nominating women, and minorities, at a pace almost exactly double that of his immediate predecessor. It’s quite laudable.
But this column isn’t about either one of those things. It’s about the dismal record this president has in successfully nominating Black men and women to the federal courts in three states in the Deep South—Florida, Georgia and Alabama—which have significant minority populations that are grossly underrepresented on the federal benches there. Coming from a president who has nominated more women and candidates of color than any of his predecessors, this is both surprising and disappointing.