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Senate votes 59-39 to confirm Lydia Griggsby, the first woman of color to become a U.S. district judge in Maryland

The U.S. Senate voted 59-39 Wednesday to confirm Maryland judicial nominee Lydia Griggsby, making her the first woman of color to serve as a federal judge in the state.

Griggsby, a Baltimore native and former chief counsel for Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, has been a judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims since 2014.

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Even though her nomination was not considered controversial, 39 Republicans voted against confirming her. She received “yes” votes from 11 Republicans and each of the 48 Democrats who were present.

“If she can’t get 60 votes, I’m not sure who can,” said University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias. “It’s just so partisan.”

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The Senate is split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, with Vice President Kamala Harris having the deciding vote.

The Senate has yet to vote on the appointment of another Maryland judge nominee, Deborah Boardman. She is a magistrate judge who previously spent 11 years as a member of the Office of the Federal Public Defender.

Griggsby and Boardman would replace Richard D. Bennett and Ellen L. Hollander, who earlier this year decided to become senior judges once their successors are confirmed. Bennett was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush; Hollander was appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama.

Griggsby, a 1986 graduate of The Park School in Baltimore, currently lives in Silver Spring. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, announced her nomination on March 30, two months after she was interviewed by Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, Maryland’s two Democratic senators. The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed her nomination in a 16-6 vote last week.

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“We are confident that she will faithfully follow the law and serve Marylanders with excellence,” Cardin and Van Hollen said in a joint statement Wednesday. “We also are proud that Judge Griggsby — a lifelong Marylander — will make history when she becomes the first Black woman and first woman of color to serve on our federal court as a U.S. District Judge for Maryland.”

The White House said in a March statement that the federal bench “should reflect the full diversity of the American people – both in background and in professional experience.” Its initial nominees included three African American women picked for Circuit Court vacancies.

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