Xinis seems headed to Senate vote for seat on U.S. bench in Greenbelt

Paula Xinis, whose nomination to the federal bench has been mired for eight months in election-year politics, likely will get a full-Senate vote soon on whether she takes a seat on the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

Paula Xinis speaks before the Senate Judiciary Committee in July. (Screen grab from U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee video)

Paula Xinis speaks before the Senate Judiciary Committee in July. (Screen grab from U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee video)

The Senate gave unanimous consent Wednesday to move Xinis’ name to the floor, with debate and a vote on her confirmation scheduled to begin Monday afternoon. Full-Senate consideration is a major step forward for the private attorney whom President Barack Obama nominated to the court in March 2015 and was reported favorably by the Senate Judiciary Committee in September.

Since then, Xinis has been caught up in much the same partisanship that has kept the Democratic president’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, from getting a hearing before the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee.

The political freeze involving Xinis thawed this week following objections raised by Maryland U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, both Democrats.

“In Maryland, we have an eminently qualified nominee, Paula Xinis, who has been waiting for months to fill a seat in Greenbelt,” Cardin said in a statement late last week. “It is outrageous that the Senate leadership is deliberately allowing the number of judicial vacancies and judicial emergencies to grow; justice delayed is truly justice denied.”

Cardin’s concerns about partisan politics are reminiscent of those raised by GOP senators when a Democratic-run Senate blocked a confirmation vote on Miguel Estrada, the nominee of then-President George W. Bush, a Republican, for a seat on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. Estrada withdrew his name from consideration in September 2003 after waiting more than two years for a Senate vote.

If confirmed, Xinis would succeed Judge Deborah K. Chasanow, who took senior status in October 2014.

Xinis, a 1997 Yale Law School graduate, began her legal career as a clerk for 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Diana Gribbon Motz from 1997 to 1998. Xinis later worked as a federal public defender before joining the law firm Murphy, Falcon & Murphy in Baltimore.

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