The vote was 47-52, short of the needed majority.
The controversy over Debo Adegbile (DAY-bow uh-DAYG-buh-lay) stems from legal representation of a man imprisoned in the murder of a Philadelphia policeman decades ago.
It was unclear what the next step will be for his supporters. Several Democrats joined all Senate Republicans invoting to prevent confirmation.
Adegbile was at the NAACP Legal Defense fund when the organization began representing Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was appealing his conviction in the killing in 1981 of a police officer.
The vote marked the first time a nominee has stalled since Democrats restricted critics' abilities to blockconfirmations.
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