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Logjam around Baltimore judge starting to break

New talks are under way that should finally clear the way for the confirmation of federal Judge Andre M. Davis of Baltimore to the long-vacant "Maryland seat" on a federal appeals court, Senate sources said today.

Democratic and Republican Senate leaders have been negotiating the exact timing of confirmation votes on several of President Barack Obama's judicial nominees, including Davis. A deal could be reached by early next week, clearing the way for quick confirmation by the full Senate, a Senate staffer said.

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Davis' confirmation is a foregone conclusion, once his nomination actually makes it to the Senate floor. The 60-year-old Baltimore native was approved by a bipartisan majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee in early June.

For months, Republicans stalled action on Obama's judicial picks, saying they needed to devote their attention to the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

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Obama nominated Davis, 60, more than five months ago to a seat on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. President Bill Clinton picked Davis for the same seat in late 2000, but the nomination died as Clinton's term ended.

The vacancy that Davis was twice picked to fill is now in its tenth year. Judge Francis D. Murnaghan Jr., for whom Davis once clerked, died in August, 2000 and politics has prevented his "Maryland seat" from being occupied ever since.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said this week that the Senate needed to do a better job of moving Obama's judicial nominees to courts around the country, including Davis'.

Obama has made 17 lifetime nominations to the federal bench and the Senate has not confirmed a single one, other than Sotomayor, Leahy pointed out.

"Judge Andre Davis' nomination to the Fourth Circuit was reported by the (Judiciary) Committee on June 4 by a vote of 16-3," said Leahy. "We should not further delay Senate consideration of (this) well-respected, mainstream Federal" judge.

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