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Long wait about over for Baltimore judge

It's been nine years since federal Judge Andre Davis of Baltimore was first nominated to fill the "Maryland seat" on the federal Court of Appeals.

It's been seven months since President Barack Obama re-nominated Davis for the same position--which has remained vacant, thanks to political stalemate in Washington, since the death of Judge Francis D. Murnaghan Jr. in August, 2000.

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And it's been more than five months since the Senate Judiciary Committee, on a bipartisan vote, cleared Davis for confirmation by the full Senate. Once again, it was politics--delaying tactics by Senate Republicans, who are waging a relatively unnoticed, but largely successful, blocking campaign against Obama nominees--that forced Davis to wait some more.

In just a few days, however, the Baltimore native--having spent his 50s waiting for the promotion to come through--should finally be able to move up. Senate debate on Davis' nomination is scheduled to begin late Monday afternoon, with a confirmation vote expected the same day. The exact timing could still slip--we're talking about the Senate here--but not the result: his confirmation is a foregone conclusion, once senators finally get to vote.

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That will put Davis, now 60, on the bench of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has a reputation as the most conservative of the nation's appellate courts--the highest level other than the Supreme Court. Now that Obama nominees are about to start joining the bench in Richmond, that court will be moving to the left.

There are five vacancies on the 15-judge panel, which hears appeals from cases in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas. Just this week, Obama nominated two North Carolina judges to the 4th Circuit.

One was, like Davis, a Bill Clinton nominee who was blocked by Republicans (in this case, North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms) at the end of Clinton's presidency. The other would be the first Hispanic to sit on the 4th Circuit.

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