Disappointment, Anger Answer Blocked Nomination
State Court Judge Dax Lopez’s bid for a federal judgeship is over, but he said even the critics who sank his nomination failed to tarnish his judicial record.
“While I am disappointed in the outcome, I take immense pride in the fact that not one of my detractors was able to find issue with any portion of my judicial record, a record that reflects fairness, efficiency, and a fierce fidelity for the law as it is,” the Jewish Republican originally from Puerto Rico said in a written statement.
It was The Temple member’s first public comment on the controversy sparked by his nomination to the U.S. District Court for Northern Georgia, submitted by President Barack Obama in late July. Lopez had declined to comment to the AJT and other media, awaiting his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer any questions and defend himself from the attacks of anti-illegal-immigration activists such as D.A. King of the Dustin Inman Society.
Lopez will not get that opportunity, however, because Sen. David Perdue, a fellow Georgia Republican, exercised his privilege under Senate custom to halt a nomination to a federal court in his state. Without naming the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, Perdue pointed to participation in a “controversial organization” as the source of concerns for himself and for unnamed colleagues, “making Judge Lopez’s final confirmation unattainable.”
Fred Hicks, who managed Lopez’s judicial election campaigns, said recently that Perdue met with the judge for only 15 minutes in December.
“I expected to receive a full and fair vetting process. Indeed, as a judge, I appreciate the need to hear all sides of an issue before making a decision,” Lopez said in his statement. “Unfortunately, given the divisive politics that now permeate even judicial nominations, I was deprived of an opportunity to address any concerns about my nomination directly and in my own words in a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
Georgia’s senior senator, Republican Johnny Isakson, expressed disappointment that Lopez won’t get a hearing. Local Republican Jewish Coalition head Chuck Berk declined to comment on Perdue’s decision or on the possible repercussions for Republican efforts to gain Jewish votes in November’s presidential election.
But Antonio Molina, who chairs the Georgia Democratic Party’s Latino Caucus, was quick to try to turn the situation to his side’s political advantage, claiming that Perdue’s decision on “such an accomplished Georgian” reflected an out-of-touch GOP.
Lopez was appointed to the State Court in 2010 by Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, a cousin of the senator’s. He had the approval of a panel formed by Georgia’s two U.S. senators to assess possible federal judicial nominees; that group included Josh Belinfante, who served as counsel to Perdue’s 2014 Senate campaign. Leading Republican lawyers, including former government officials, sent the senators a letter supporting Lopez in October.
Anti-Defamation League Southeast Region Director Mark Moskowitz not only strongly endorsed Lopez, a graduate of the ADL’s Glass Leadership Institute, but also attacked Lopez critic King in letters to the senators Jan. 6.
King has a history of making bigoted statements against immigrants and of writing for a website that publishes racist and anti-Semitic articles, Moskowitz wrote.
After Perdue killed the nomination, Moskowitz expressed dismay that King and other “extreme voices” may have influenced the decision, which King celebrated on his blog.
King shrugged off the criticism from “the race-baiting ADL” in comments to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Nancy Zirkin, the executive director of the Washington-based Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, questioned whether Georgia will ever have a Latino federal judge.
“Working with a highly respected, bipartisan Latino organization should not disqualify anyone from being a federal judge. At the very least, Senator Perdue should have afforded Dax Lopez, a conservative state judge with bipartisan support, the courtesy of a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Zirkin said in a statement.
Lopez indicated that any unfairness with which he was treated will not alter his actions as a state judge.
“I love and respect the law. My commitment to following the law and to ensuring justice for all will remain steadfast and unwavering,” he said. “It has been my honor to serve the citizens of DeKalb County, and I look forward to continuing to serve them with honor and distinction.”