Senate panel approves Baltimore judge for U.S. court

A Baltimore circuit judge has been nominated to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

George Levi Russell III, who has presided over 2,700 cases since 2007 on the Circuit Court, would fill a vacancy created with the retirement in 2008 of Judge Peter Messitte. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously Thursday to approve Russell's nomination, which will now move to the Senate floor for a yet-to-be scheduled vote.

"He has already had a hearing, and this is the second step," said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. "This means Russell is well qualified for the position. It is a good sign, and I am optimistic he will be confirmed."

Seventeen nominees to judgeships across the country have been waiting for a floor vote in the Senate, some of them for months, Tobias said.

"There are 85 vacancies, and the courts are much in need of these judicial resources," Tobias said. "I am sure the Maryland senators will do whatever they can and push for an early vote on Russell's nomination."

Russell, 46 and a lifelong city resident, earned his undergraduate degree in 1988 from Morehouse College in Atlanta and his law degree three years later from the University of Maryland School of Law. He formerly served as a law clerk to Robert M. Bell, chief judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals. Before his appointment to the bench, he spent a decade as an assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland.

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