BY CASH MICHAELS
OF THE WILMINGTON JOURNAL
When President Obama, Republican Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell [Ky.] and others briefly met at the White House Tuesday to discuss the political log jam casting a shadow on the president nominating a replacement for the late US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, one thing was made very clear – Obama intends to carry out his constitutional duty to nominate a qualified candidate before he leaves office next January, whether McConnell and the Senate take up that nomination or not.
The Republicans present reaffirmed their vow not to even consider it before the next president takes office, hoping that it will be a Republican.
If the president nominated either a moderate or progressive to fill the ultra-conservative Scalia’s shoes, it would tip the ideological balance of the SCOTUS to the left, thus breaking the current four-four liberal to conservative tie, something that Republicans do not want. Justice Scalia’s right-wing leanings assured conservatives that they had at least one solid champion on the court. In the wake of his death several weeks ago, they do not want to hand Obama any advantages.
Among black leadership, though, the growing consensus of who the president should nominate to the High Court is clear – US Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
“I would love to see him appoint Loretta Lynch,” US. Rep. Elijah Cummings [D-MD], senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, told The Hill Newspaper. “She’s already been vetted. She meets the criteria that he’s laid out. She would certainly be my recommendation.”
Even North Carolina’s black leadership agrees.
She would be a powerful nominee,” says NC NAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber. “Her credentials are phenomenal. She is from the South, a black woman, and someone who has already been confirmed.”
The Greensboro native, 56, endured a prolonged five-month confirmation battle in 2015 before McConnell and his Republican US Senate majority finally confirmed her last April. Observers say in the likelihood that Senate Republicans stick to their promise to not even give Pres. Obama’s nominee a hearing, they would run a tremendous political risk of not only besmirching Atty. Gen. Lynch two years in a row, but also angering the black Democratic voting base during a presidential election year.
Indeed black female Democrats, the party’s most active base, would certainly be fired up about supporting one of their own to again make history.
Given how business tycoon Donald Trump is emerging as the likely GOP presidential nominee, observers say McConnell and Senate Republicans would not only run the risk of a black voter backlash when they would least afford it, but could also cripple their goal of holding onto their Senate majority in November, putting vulnerable GOP senators at risk in states where Obama won in 2008.
Even veteran SCOTUS watchers, like Tom Goldstein, who writes the widely read SCOTUSBlog.com, actually changed his earlier prediction of another likely Obama High Court candidate, and recently ruminated on the considerable political benefit a Loretta Lynch nomination would bring.
“The stakes could not be higher: the appointment could flip the Supreme Court’s ideological balance for decades,” Goldstein wrote recently. “Second, gain as much political benefit as possible and exact as heavy a political toll as possible on Republicans, particularly in the presidential election. Precisely because of the seat’s importance, this is the rare time that a material number of voters may seriously think about the Court in deciding whether to vote at all and who to vote for.”
Other observers believe that while Lynch would certainly be the best known SCOTUS nominee Pres. Obama could forward to the US Senate, there are other black female judicial candidates whose stellar records of accomplishment would also produce an outstanding and history-making first African-American female associate justice of the US Supreme Court.
But given her exemplary record as US attorney general thus far, observers say Loretta Lynch would be the president’s most powerful choice.
“The United States Supreme Court and our nation would be well served with a nomination of Attorney General Loretta Lynch to replace Justice Scalia on that court,” says attorney Irving Joyner, law professor at the North Carolina Central University School of Law in Durham. “Her credentials are outstanding and she has been an outstanding attorney general during the time that she has been in that position.”
Born in Greensboro, Lynch was raised in Durham by retired pastor Rev. Lorenzo Lynch Sr. and his wife during the height of the civil rights movement. Lynch graduated Harvard Law School, and successfully served as US attorney for the Eastern District of New York for several years before being nominated to succeed US Attorney General Eric Holder in 2014.
“Given her past outstanding service, her demonstrated knowledge of the law and excellent judicial temperament, she will make an outstanding Justice on the Supreme Court and be an intellectual force similar to the late Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall,” continued Professor Joyner. “I would strongly urge President Obama to nominate this outstanding African American for service on the U.S. Supreme Court.”