I am pleased to join with Senator Mikulski in recommending that the Judiciary Committee favorably report Judge George Levi Russell III of Maryland to be a US District Judge for the District of Maryland.
The Constitution provides for lifetime appointments for federal judges, which is unique in our federal government. I know that both Senator Mikulski and I take this obligation very seriously in terms of the advice and consent role played by the Senate.
When evaluating judicial nominees, I use several criteria. First, I believe judicial nominees must have an appreciation for the Constitution and the protections it provides to each and every American.
I believe each nominee must embrace a judicial philosophy that reflects mainstream American values, not narrow ideological interests. I believe a judicial nominee must respect the role and responsibilities of each branch of government, including a healthy respect for the precedents of the court. I look for a strong commitment and passion for the continued forward progress of civil rights protections. And I want judges who have the necessary experience and temperament. I am confident that Judge Russell meets these criteria and standards.
Judge Russell was nominated to fill the vacancy created during the end of President Bush’s term of office, when Judge Peter Messitte took senior status in 2008.
Judge Russell brings a wealth of experience to this position in both state and federal courts. Earlier in his career he served as a federal prosecutor and as an attorney in a private law firm. He now sits as a state court trial judge in Maryland.
Judge Russell graduated from Morehouse College with a B.A. in political science in 1988, and a J.D. from Maryland Law School in 1991. He passed the bar examination and was admitted to practice in Maryland in 1991. He then clerked for Chief Judge Robert Bell on the Maryland Court of Appeals, our state’s highest court.
He worked as a Litigation Associate for 2 years at Hazel, Thomas, and then briefly at Whiteford, Taylor. He then served as an Assistant US Attorney for the District of Maryland from 1994 to 1999, handling civil cases. In that capacity he represented various federal government agencies in discrimination, accident, and medical malpractice cases.
He then worked as an associate at the Peter Angelos law firm for 2 years.
In 2002 he went back to the US Attorney’s office handling criminal cases until 2007. He represented the United States in the criminal prosecution of violent crime and narcotics cases during the investigatory stage, at trial, and on appeal. This included the initiation and monitoring of wiretaps to infiltrate and break up violent gangs in Baltimore City. He also served as the Project Safe Neighborhood Coordinator for the office from 2002 until 2005. He participated in community outreach programs, including attending community meetings on behalf of the office and attending meetings with the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office, to reduce violent crime in Baltimore neighborhood.
In January 2007, Governor Ehrlich appointed him to serve as an Associate Judge of the Baltimore City Circuit Court for a term of 15 years. As a trial judge, Judge Russell has presided over hundreds of trials that have gone to verdict or judgment, and has experience in handling jury trials, bench trails, civil cases, and criminal cases.
Judge Russell has strong roots, legal experience, and community involvement in the state of Maryland. He was born and raised in Baltimore City, and has extended family who live in Baltimore. He serves as a Director and Trustee on the Board of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, which serves the disadvantaged through the State of Maryland. He served on the Board of Directors of the Community Law Center, which is an organization designed to help neighborhood organizations improve the quality of life for their residents.
He has also served as a board member of several organizations that devoted substantial resources to helping the disadvantaged, including Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Maryland. I know that he has often spoken to young people in school about the obligation, duty, and mandate of a judge, and tries to demystify the role of a judge in a black robe. Judge Russell is particularly concerned with addressing the drug violence and mental health problems that plague Baltimore City.
Judge Russell comes from a distinguished legal family in the state of Maryland. Judge Russell’s father is George L. Russell, Jr. who was a groundbreaking African-American lawyer in Maryland. He was the first African-American judge on Maryland’s Circuit Court in the 1960’s, and was later Baltimore’s first African-American solicitor. He was also the first African-American president of the Baltimore City Bar Association, and the first African-American to run for mayor of Baltimore in 1971. In later years, Judge Russell was named by the governor to chair the Maryland Museum of African-American History and Culture Commission, and served as chairman of the board of the Maryland African American Museum Corporation. He was also asked to chair Baltimore’s Judicial Nominating Commission. He received numerous awards from the Maryland Bar Foundation and the NAACP.
Indeed, Judge Russell’s family believes so strongly in public service that even he wife is a judge, sitting on the District Court of Maryland for Baltimore City.
I am absolutely confident that Judge Russell possesses the qualifications, temperament, and passion for justice that will make him an outstanding United States District Court Judge for the District of Maryland. He will serve the people of Maryland very well in this position. I therefore recommend the Committee favorably approve this nomination and send it to the full Senate for confirmation.