U.S. Senate confirms Hurwitz to 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
The U.S. Senate has confirmed an Arizona Supreme Court justice to a seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which serves Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, California and Arizona.
WASHINGTON — An Arizona Supreme Court justice has won Senate confirmation as a U.S. appellate judge despite conservatives' objections to his involvement in rulings that led to the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
The Senate voted Tuesday to place Andrew David Hurwitz on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which serves Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, California and Arizona.
The Senate confirmed Hurwitz on a voice vote despite opposition from Republican opponents on Monday to bringing the nomination to a vote. Arizona's two Republican senators supported the nomination.
"Justice Hurwitz has proven himself to be not only a first-rate legal mind but a faithful public servant," Obama said in nominating Hurwitz late last year.
Republicans in the Senate tried to block the nominee with a filibuster, saying Hurwitz's work as a clerk to then-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart and subsequent backing of the decision that legalized abortion showed a misunderstanding of the proper role of the judicial system.
"Mr. Hurwitz is not simply another liberal nominee," said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, during this week's floor debate. "Mr. Hurwitz has sought to claim credit for one of the most controversial and constitutionally indefensible decisions in Supreme Court history: Roe v. Wade."
The 9th Circuit is among the most watched of the nation's federal appeals courts because of its often groundbreaking, and liberal-leaning, decisions.
The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., called the GOP's attempt to block the nomination a "new low."
"An unfair campaign is being mounted by the extreme right against this outstanding nominee," Leahy said during the debate.
Obama has faced opposition from Republicans in the Senate over his nominees to the courts and other federal posts. The stalemate reached a peak this year as Republicans protested the White House's recess appointment of the president's choice to head a new consumer financial-protection bureau. Senate leaders reached an agreement to try to clear the backlog.
But judicial nominees still run into the roadblock of partisan ideology over the appropriate role of justices on the courts.
It was Hurwitz's tenure in the early 1970s as a Supreme Court clerk for Stewart, as well as a clerk to then-U.S. District Court Judge Jon Newman in Connecticut, that set off conservative GOP opposition. At the time, Newman, who is now a judge on the U.S. 2nd District Court of Appeals, wrote a decision in a case that became a precursor to Roe v. Wade.
Republicans criticized Hurwitz for continuing to write with "fondness," as Lee put it, about his work on the cases covering abortion rights.
Hurwitz is a Yale Law School graduate who has served on the Arizona Supreme Court since 2003. Before that, he worked in the public and private sectors and was chief of staff to former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt and, briefly, to Gov. Rose Mofford, both Democrats.