Judge Dax Lopez is by almost all accounts a conservative Republican, appointed to the DeKalb bench by a conservative governor. Before joining the judiciary he worked in Republican causes, and is a member of the Federalist Society, viewed as a pipeline of sorts for ambitious conservative lawyers.¹
I don’t know Lopez personally, and at the moment he’s not speaking to the press. But those who do know him and have worked with him speak highly of his intellect and integrity.
“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,” many of the state’s most prominent conservative lawyers said in a recent letter endorsing Lopez. “We know that Judge Lopez views the law the same way.”
Yet at the behest of people such as Phil Kent, a man with a long history of racist writings, and D.A. King, a well-known anti-immigrant extremist, the nomination of Lopez as a federal judge is being blocked. U.S. senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue have refused to allow the Lopez nomination to be considered by their Senate colleagues, and they show no sign of relenting.
(UPDATE: Isakson at least is now signaling openness to the nomination.)
It’s a remarkable situation, and it illustrates perfectly who is running the Republican Party these days and how short-sighted they have become.
To justify their opposition, his critics can’t take issue with anything that the judge has ever said or written. They cite no problem with his legal training at Vanderbilt, nor with his record as a state court judge since 2010. They point to one thing: his former membership on the board of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, a group that has advocated on behalf of Latinos.
When King condemns Lopez as “yet another Obama-appointed activist judge,” as he did in a recent radio interview with Tim Bryant with WGAU in Athens, the GALEO membership is the sole piece of evidence offered in defense of that charge. (Interestingly, conservative lawyers appointed by both Isakson and Perdue to vet judicial nominees reached a very different conclusion, enthusiastically recommending Lopez.)
The world is changing; Georgia is changing. White Georgians comprised 68 percent of registered voters in 2004, 59 percent in 2012 and at that rate will be 55 percent of this year’s electorate. Hispanic-American children make up roughly 15 percent of pubic school students in Georgia, double the percentage in 2003-04, and white students make up roughly 42 percent, down from 51 percent. The change those children represent is inexorable.
And the Dax Lopez story is the type of story that has legs. It’s the sort of story that gets told and retold, and it gets remembered not for a year or two but for a generation or two. Imagine yourself as an ambitious Georgian of Hispanic descent looking for a party in which to make your mark. You look at Lopez, a man who worked hard, got an education, played by the rules and did all the right things. And this is what happens to him.
People will remember. They will remember that GOP leaders ignored the pleadings even of their party’s most influential lawyers, their own advisers, and allowed their actions to be dictated by the likes of King and Kent. They will remember.
¹Even conservative rabble-rouser Erick Erickson has now publicly joined those advocating in favor of the Lopez nomination.