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Greenbelt judicial nominees get key vote by Senate panel

Two attorneys took a giant step Thursday toward winning confirmation to U.S. District Court judgeships in Maryland.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee recommended that the full Senate vote to confirm Theodore David Chuang and George Jarrod Hazel to seats on the federal bench in Greenbelt. If confirmed, Chuang and Hazel would succeed retiring federal judges Roger W. Titus and Alexander Williams Jr.

The Senate has not yet scheduled confirmation votes for Chuang and Hazel.

President Barack Obama nominated both men to the federal bench on Sept. 25.

Hazel’s nomination met with no controversy: The panel recommended confirmation of the deputy Baltimore city state’s attorney by voice vote.

But the nomination of Chuang, a legal adviser to the State Department, encountered strong opposition from the committee’s Republican minority Thursday morning.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, the panel’s senior Republican, said Chuang has participated in what the Iowa senator called the State Department’s “efforts to stonewall Congress” by withholding documents regarding the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, computer specialist Sean Smith and security contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed in the attack. (The State Department has denied GOP allegations of stonewalling Congress.)

Ultimately, the committee voted to recommend Chuang to the full Senate on a party-line vote of 10-8.

Hazel, who has served as chief deputy to Baltimore City State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein since 2011, was an assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland from 2008 to 2010. He prosecuted violent and drug crimes and was manager of Project Exile, a high-profile collaboration with local prosecutors’ offices.

“I think he’s a superbly talented public servant,” said Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, Hazel’s boss during those years. “He is collegial, humble and hard-working, qualities I think are extremely important in a judge.”

Hazel was also an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington from 2005 to 2008, focusing on violent and drug crimes.

The 1999 Georgetown University Law Center graduate began his career as a litigator at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP in Washington, where he worked from 1999 to 2004.

Chuang is deputy general counsel at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, where he has worked since 2009. He was also chief investigative counsel for the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee in 2009 and deputy chief investigative counsel for the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform from 2007 to 2009, according to a biography provided by the White House.

The 1994 Harvard Law School graduate worked from 2004 to 2007 at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, after having served six years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Massachusetts. Chuang was also a trial attorney at the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division from 1995 to 1998 after serving for one year as a law clerk for 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Dorothy W. Nelson.

The retiring Williams took senior status on May 8, saying: “That’s what happens when we gray.”

Titus intends to go on senior status Friday, a plan he announced in a letter to Obama last January.

“I’m giving them a full year’s notice and seeing if they can get it done,” Titus said at that time. “I want to give them all the reasonable amount of time I can give them so a replacement can be ready to take over.”