Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, December 23, 2010


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Senate Confirms Mary Murguia to Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The U.S. Senate yesterday confirmed President Obama’s nomination of U.S. District Judge Mary H. Murguia of Arizona to serve as a judge of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The nomination was confirmed on a roll call vote of 89-0.

Murguia, 50, is expected to receive her commission shortly and will maintain chambers in Phoenix, the court said. She will fill a judgeship vacant since Feb. 12, when Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, also of Arizona, took senior status.

Then-President Clinton nominated Murguia to the district court in 2000, and she was the first Latina to serve on the Arizona federal bench. Obama nominated Murguia to the Ninth Circuit March 25, but the nomination had been on hold despite a favorable report by the Senate Judiciary Committee Aug. 5.

Deal on Votes

Yesterday’s vote was the result of a deal between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to confirm at least 19 of the president’s 38 pending judicial nominees, while deferring four others, before the 111th Congress adjourns. The deferred nominations include those of UC Berkeley School of Law professor and associate dean Goodwin Liu to the Ninth Circuit, and federal Magistrate Judge Edward M. Chen to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Liu has drawn fire from Republicans about comments he made criticizing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. before Alito joined the high court. Chen was a civil litigator for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Northern California Chapter for 16 years before becoming a magistrate judge.

Before joining the bench, Murguia was a federal and state prosecutor. She worked in the criminal section of the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona from 1990 to 2000, and served as chief criminal deputy from 1994 to 1998.

That year, she joined the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., where she served as counsel to the director’s staff, principal deputy director and director.

Kansas Native

Murguia began her legal career in 1985 with the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office in Kansas City, Kansas, where she was born and raised. She attended college and law school at the University of Kansas.

Her twin sister, Janet Murguia, is president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group. Mary Murguia in July 2009 recused herself from presiding in a racial profiling lawsuit the group filed against Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio after the sheriff’s attorneys argued that she was biased.

The judge wrote at the time that she was stepping aside to “avoid even the slightest appearance of impropriety,” even though “no reasonable person would automatically ascribe the views of one sibling to another.”

As part of the deal on judicial nominations, the Senate yesterday also voted to confirm the nominations of University of Utah law professor Scott Matheson Jr. to the Tenth Circuit and U.S. District Judge Kathleen O’Malley of the Northern District of Ohio to the Federal Circuit. Senators also approved the nominations of U.S. Sentencing Commission member Beryl Howell and Venable partner Robert Wilkins to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Yesterday’s confirmations bring to 19 the number of judicial nominees approved in the last week, but 19 others remain in limbo. The two other nominations that Reid and McConnell agreed not to bring to a vote this session are those of former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis B. Butler Jr. to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, and Providence, R.I., attorney John J. McConnell Jr. to the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island.

The unconfirmed nominations will expire when Congress adjourns for the year.


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