The U.S. Senate on Monday confirmed Paula Xinis to be a judge on the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.
The vote was 53-35.
Xinis will succeed Judge Deborah K. Chasanow, who took senior status in October 2014.
Xinis’ confirmation vote occurred eight months after the Senate Judiciary Committee gave her a favorable recommendation.
Democrats, including Maryland U.S. Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin, had accused the Senate’s Republican leadership of playing politics by holding up a floor vote since the panel’s recommendation in September – an accusation reminiscent of those Republicans made of the Senate’s then-Democratic leadership in the early 2000s with then-President George W. Bush’s nominees to the bench.
Xinis’s confirmation did not occur without controversy.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., voiced reservations about Xinis’ representation in private law practice of plaintiffs alleging police brutality, calling it “a background that’s troubling to me.”
Xinis was most recently with the Baltimore law firm Murphy, Falcon & Murphy, which represented the family of Freddie Gray. Six Baltimore police officers have been charged in connection with Gray’s death in April 2015, which sparked widespread unrest in the city.
In early September, Baltimore approved a $6.4 million settlement with the Gray family, who had yet to file suit. The city admitted no wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement.
“She has built a career” out of suing the police and has shown “a lack of understanding of the reality of law enforcement,” Sessions said during Senate floor debate on Xinis’ confirmation.
“It’s critical that we have judges that respect the rights of the accused and also the duties of law enforcement,” he added. “Will she give them [police] a fair hearing, too?”
But Mikulski and Cardin, who had urged President Barack Obama to nominate Xinis, spoke in her defense during the floor debate.
“She is a brilliant litigator, a dedicated public servant,” Mikulski said of Xinis. “She has dedicated her career to the rule of law.”
Cardin called Xinis “eminently qualified” and said she has “the judicial temperament, the experience” to serve on the bench.
Cardin added that Xinis has represented police officers during her legal career.
“She has been in the forefront of defending those who have defended us,” Cardin said. “She has the whole package. She’ll make a great district judge.”
Obama nominated Xinis in March 2015.
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 Murphy, Falcon & Murphy.