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U.S. Senate confirms Russell for District Court seat

The U.S. Senate on Monday confirmed Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge George Levi Russell III by voice vote to a seat on the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

Russell will succeed Judge Peter J. Messitte, who took senior status in September 2008.

President Barack Obama nominated Russell to the court in November after withdrawing his first choice to succeed Messitte — U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles B. Day of the federal district court in Greenbelt — amid continuing Republican opposition, according to Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md.

“I am confident that Judge Russell will serve the people of Maryland very well in this position based on his strong roots, legal experience and community involvement in our state,” Cardin said in a statement after the Senate’s vote.

Calling Russell “a home grown Marylander,” Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., said in a statement that “he will bring the right values to the bench.”

With Russell’s confirmation, attention shifts to Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul W. Grimm, whom Obama nominated in February to the U.S. District Court in Baltimore. If confirmed, Grimm would succeed Judge Benson E. Legg, who has announced he will go on senior status in June. Grimm’s nomination is pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

University of Richmond School of Law professor Carl Tobias, who follows federal court nominations, praised the Senate’s confirmation of Russell to fill Messitte’s seat.

“The only question is why did it take so long,” Tobias said. “But that’s the way the Senate works.”

Russell has served on the Baltimore City Circuit Court since Feb. 1, 2007.

Before joining the bench, Russell was an assistant U.S. attorney in the criminal division in Maryland from 2002 to 2007. He also worked in the office’s civil division from 1994 to 1999.

From 2000 to 2002, Russell was with the Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos PC, working in the firm’s products liability and medical malpractice unit.

After graduating from the then-University of Maryland School of Law in 1991, Russell clerked one year for Court of Appeals Judge, now Chief Judge, Robert M. Bell.

He has also worked for Hazel & Thomas P.C. and Whiteford, Taylor & Preston LLP.

The Senate on Monday also confirmed Chicago lawyer John “Jay” Tharp Jr. for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Tharp, first nominated to the federal bench in 2008, was nominated again on Nov. 10 along with Russell.