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Senate Judiciary Committee Hears Testimony On Arizona Nominees
Six vacant federal judge posts in Arizona are now one step closer to being filled. The Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C. heard testimony on Tuesday on six nominees to the federal district court bench in Arizona. The hearing took place after the Arizona District Court, which is one of the 10 busiest federal courts in the country, declared a "judicial emergency," following a series of vacancies that left six of the 13 authorized judgeships vacant.
The judicial emergency was partially triggered by holds placed on the nominees by the state’s Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake. Flake had been holding up the confirmation process until the president nominated the sixth candidate, Santa Cruz County Superior Judge Alan Soto, in December. In Tuesday's hearing, Flake acknowledged the urgency of filling the vacancies.
"I can tell you talking to those serving on the bench in Arizona right now, they are happy to see the caseload cut in half as we go," said Flake. "It's better this year than last, but boy you are sure going to help."
Among the nominees is former U.S. Attorney for Arizona Diane Humetewa, who would become the first Native American woman to ever serve on the federal bench, if she is confirmed. Humetewa has been nominated to the Phoenix court. Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono applauded the diversity of the six candidates and addressed Humetewa, a member of the Hopi tribe.
"You would be the first American Indian to sit on the federal bench, is that correct?" asked Hirono.
"As I understand it, Chair Hirono, upon nomination I did learn that I would be if confirmed the first female Native American to serve in the judiciary," said Humetewa.
A Latina and an African American are also among the nominees. Rosemary Marquez was a federal criminal defense attorney for the last 13 years with extensive experience in border districts. She has been named to the Tucson bench.
Committee members have another week to ask nominees questions in writing.
Updated 1/28/2014 at 3:54 p.m.