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Senate approves Hurwitz for federal circuit court seat without debate

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WASHINGTON – The Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Hurwitz’s appointment to a vacant seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The voice-vote approval came less than 24 hours after Senate Republicans threatened to block Hurwitz’s appointment over concerns about his role, as a law clerk, in an abortion-rights decision written nearly 40 years ago.

But after more than an hour of debate and a vote to cut off debate Monday, the actual vote Tuesday was made without comment and without opposition.

“I am grateful for the president’s confidence in nominating me and the Senate’s confirmation of that nomination,” Hurwitz said in a prepared statement released after the vote.

His statement went on to give particular thanks to Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, both Republicans, who were strong supporters of his nomination, and to Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Phoenix.

Kyl said Tuesday that Hurwitz will make “a fine member of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals” because of his intelligence, demeanor and reputation as a judge.

“I support him because I know him, and I know him to be a fine jurist who, to my knowledge, has never allowed any personal views to infect his judicial decision making,” Kyl said.

Even though Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, urged the Senate on Monday to “use caution” before appointing what he called another liberal to the bench, McCain defended Hurwitz.

“I think he is qualified to do the job,” McCain said Tuesday.

Hurwitz was appointed to the Arizona Supreme Court in 2003 by former Gov. Janet Napolitano and became vice chief justice of the court in 2009. He was nominated by President Barack Obama in November 2011 to fill one of two vacancies on the 29-judge circuit, the seat left open by the retirement of Judge Mary Schroeder at the end of 2011.

While Hurwitz moved from nomination to confirmation in just over seven months, another Obama court appointment from Arizona has been languishing for almost a year. Rosemary Marquez was nominated June 23 to an open seat on the U.S. District Court for Arizona, but she has yet to get a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the first step toward confirmation.

Kyl said Tuesday that he does not expect that to change anytime soon.

“There’s nothing going on,” with the Marquez nomination, he said.