Updated from earlier today
The Senate voted 72-16 today to confirm the nomination of Judge Andre Davis to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, breaking a longstanding deadlock on nominees for a Maryland-based seat.
Davis, who has been on the federal district court for Maryland, won confirmation by a comfortable margin after getting the backing of the Senate Judiciary Committee 16-3 on June 4.
The seat that Davis will fill has been vacant since 2000, when Judge Francis Murnaghan Jr. of Baltimore died. President Bill Clinton nominated Davis for the seat, but the choice came near the end of Clinton’s second term and it languished in the Senate. Then, Senate Democrats blocked President George W. Bush’s attempts to fill the seat, most recently with Maryland’s U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein.
“We have had a number of battles over the failure to fill some of the vacancies on that court. President Bush submitted a number of nominations and couldn't get them up for a vote,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, in a speech last month.
With Rosenstein’s nomination, Democrats countered that he did not have strong enough ties to Maryland. Though he had been an assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland from 1997 to 2001, he worked most of his career in Washington for the U.S. Justice Department and is a native Pennsylvanian.
Another Bush nominee for the Maryland seat, Claude Allen, had never practiced law in the state. A former chief domestic policy adviser to Bush, Allen saw his nomination lapse in December 2005. (He resigned from the White House in February 2006, shortly before he was charged with defrauding department stores by allegedly returning items he hadn’t bought and asking for a refund.)
Sessions focused his criticism on six criminal cases in which Davis disallowed government evidence and was reversed on appeal. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said in June that the number of reversals was not unusual given that Davis has been a federal trial judge since 1995.
Even after Davis’ confirmation, there are four vacancies remaining on the 15-seat, Richmond-based circuit. Obama has announced three other nominees for it. Davis is the second Obama nominee confirmed to any circuit court, after Judge Gerard Lynch for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
Footnote: Davis clerked for Murnaghan in 1979-80.