Several prominent Republicans recently sent a letter of recommendation to Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue calling for the confirmation of DeKalb County State Court Judge Dax Lopez to a position on the federal District Court in Atlanta. A story in the Daily Report says those signing the letter of recommendation include Georgia House Judiciary Committee Chair Wendall Willard, Georgia GOP General Counsel Anne Lewis, Georgia GOP Treasurer Mansell McCord, and Vice-Chairman of the House Judiciary-Non Civil Committee BJay Pak.
“As conservatives, we recognize that the constitutional obligation of a judge is to decide cases based on the text of the law and not policy preferences,” the letter says. “We know that Judge Lopez views the law the same way.”
Lppez was nominated for the seat last summer, after previous nominee Michael Boggs withdrew his name from consideration because of objections by Democrats over positions he held while in the Georgia legislature. The Daily Report story fills in the candidate’s background:
Lopez was born in Puerto Rico and moved with his family to Augusta when he was 6. When he was appointed to the DeKalb bench in 2010, Lopez, who described himself as a Republican in a 2010 interview with the Daily Report, became only the second Latino trial court judge in Georgia. When Lopez campaigned in a nonpartisan race to retain his judicial post in 2012, he garnered support from Democrats. If confirmed, he would become the first Latino federal judge in the state’s history.
But Lopez’s nomination has drawn opposition, largely stemming from his longtime position as a board member of the Georgia Association of Elected Officials (GALEO). Lopez was on GALEO’s board when Gov. Perdue appointed him to the DeKalb bench, and Lopez remained on the board when the White House nominated him to the federal bench.
Although Lopez has since resigned from the GALEO board, his association with the non-partisan organization that has advocated for immigration reform and voting rights has caused concern from some who say he is unfit for the federal bench. Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren and Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway sent letters to Isakson and Perdue opposing the nomination, as did Senator Michael Williams of Cumming, who said “by word and action, Judge Lopez identifies with the philosophical position” of GALEO. Lopez is also opposed by D.A. King of the anti-illegal immigration Dustin Inman Society, and by Phil Kent, who is Governor Nathan Deal’s appointee to the state Immigration Enforcement and Review Board.
The fact that Lopez is a graduate of the Coverdell Leadership Institute, the forerunner of the current Republican Leadership for Georgia program, should make him acceptable to those on the right. Yet, in the same way Congressman Paul Ryan’s support for immigration reform may deny him election to Speaker of the House, Lopez’s association with the pro-immigration group GALEO may doom the possibility of moving to the federal bench.
Lopez has not yet had a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.