Baltimore native Andre Maurice Davis won confirmation Monday as a judge on the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, nine years after his first nomination to the job.
The bipartisan 72-16 Senate vote tips the appeals court in Richmond, Va., known as the country's most conservative, to a Democratic majority from a five-to-five split. There are four vacancies left to fill on the 15-member panel, which could increase the leftward shift.
Davis, a federal judge in Baltimore for the past 14 years, said politics isn't a factor in his legal decisions, nor should they be.
"The facts and the law ... that's what it's all about," he said in a telephone interview after the Senate voted.
Davis said he was "humbled and honored" by the confirmation and "very much looking forward to the next stage of [his] judicial career."
The 60-year-old judge was previously nominated by President Bill Clinton to the appeals court, which hears cases from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas. The Senate never acted on the nomination, and it expired with the end of Clinton's presidency.
Davis fills a seat left vacant since the death in 2000 of Francis D. Murnaghan Jr., for whom Davis once clerked.
Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrats, urged the Senate to approve Davis, who was born in Baltimore to working-class parents and grew up on the city's east side. He won a scholarship to Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., where he was one of four black students in a student body of 800.
He earned a history degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from the University of Maryland, where he still teaches criminal law.
Davis practiced law with a private firm in Baltimore and at the Justice Department in Washington before serving, from 1987 to 1995, as a judge in Baltimore district and circuit courts.
On the appellate bench, Davis' experience "will help the judges who have not served on the trial courts appreciate that perspective," wrote Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, in an e-mail. "He is a seasoned judge and that will be valuable."
All 16 of Monday's "no" votes were cast by Republicans. An equal number of Republican senators joined 56 Democrats and independents in confirming Davis.
Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, delivered a lengthy critique of Davis' decisions that have been overturned by the 4th Circuit.
Davis has previously denied allegations of bias and said Monday that he respects the work of the appellate judges.
"We each in our respective spheres do the best that we can and carry out our responsibilities," Davis said, adding matter-of-factly that he has a "number of cases that are still pending" before the appeals court.
Baltimore Sun reporter Paul West contributed to this article.