CFJ Demands Affirmative Action for Southern White Males

Back when President Bush was in office, one of the standard right-wing tactics for putting pressure on Democratic Senators to confirm his nominees was to accuse them of being anti-whatever the specific nominee happened to be.

When they opposed Bill Pryor, it was because they were anti-Catholic; when they opposed Miguel Estrada, it was because they were anti-Hispanic; when they opposed Priscilla Owen or Janice Rogers Brown, it was because they were anti-women; and when they opposed Leslie Southwick, it was because they were anti-southern white male.

Now President Obama is in office and making his own nominations … but nothing has changed, as Curt Levey of the Committee for Justice is now accusing him discrimination because Obama has made a handful of nominations and not one has been a white southern male:

Yesterday, President Obama nominated Albert Diaz and James A. Wynn of North Carolina to the Fourth Circuit of the second highest court in the land, the United States Court of Appeals …Their nominations bring to six the number of U.S. Court of Appeals nominees President Obama has named to the southern circuits – the Fourth, Fifth, and Eleventh – and to the handful of southern seats outside those circuits (note that circuit nominees virtually always hail from the state to which the corresponding circuit seat is informally assigned). None of these six southerners is a white male. So once again we have to wonder whether a Democratic bias against southern white men serving on the federal appeals courts is at work. (In addition to Diaz and Wynn, the six include Andre M. Davis, Barbara Milano Keenan, Beverly Baldwin Martin, and Jane Branstetter Stranch).

Does President Obama or his advisors believe that southern white men are likely to be bigoted, making them unfit to serve on the second most powerful court in the land? We hope not and readily concede that it is difficult to know if any such stereotype lurks in the White House. The absence of southern white male circuit nominees could, instead, be an innocent coincidence or the not-so-innocent byproduct of a judicial selection process dominated by racial and gender preferences.

But regardless of the reason for the pattern we noted in 2007 and again now, even the appearance that Democrats are biased against southern white men is a potential problem for the party generally, and for President Obama’s goal of transcending old racial divisions. At the very least, the pattern merits further thought and discussion, both outside and inside the White House.

White male judges currently hold 20 of the occupied 37 seats on the three southern circuits that Levey cites, and hold 95 of 157 of all the circuit court seats.