Obama nominates Arizona judge to 9th Circuit Appeals Court
By Carol J. Williams, LA Times, March 27, 2010
President Obama has nominated Arizona federal trial court Judge Mary H. Murguia to serve on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the court announced Friday.
Murguia, 49, is the president's second nomination to the nation's largest and busiest appeals court, with UC Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu named last month to one of three vacancies on the court with 29 judgeships.
Confirmation hearings for Liu had been scheduled this week but were scrapped by Republicans within the Senate Judiciary Committee registering their displeasure over passage of the healthcare bill. No new hearing date has been set.
Murguia, a Kansas native, has served for the last decade on the federal district bench in Arizona, and held senior positions in the U.S. attorney's office during the Clinton administration.
"Judge Murguia has displayed an outstanding commitment to public service throughout her career and as a district judge in Arizona," Obama said in a statement released by the White House on Thursday. "I am honored to nominate her today for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals and confident she will serve the American people with fairness and integrity."
Before becoming the first Latina federal judge in Arizona, Murguia worked in the criminal division of the U.S. attorney's office from 1990 to 2000, the last two years in the Washington executive office.
She began her career in the Wyandotte County district attorney's office in Kansas City after earning her law degree from the University of Kansas in 1985.
The nominee is the twin sister of Janet Murguia, a former Clinton advisor and president and chief executive of the National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Latino civil rights group.
During her tenure on the district court, Mary Murguia issued important rulings in environmental protection and patent infringement.
A 2008 ruling by Murguia derailed efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the George W. Bush administration to remove protections for desert-nesting bald eagles.
Last year, Murguia came to notice in the intellectual property field when she doubled a jury's award of damages to $371 million to be paid to a New Jersey medical device manufacturer that had developed breakthrough vascular tubing. An Arizona company, W.L. Gore & Associates Inc., was found to have infringed on the patent rights of C.R. Bard Inc.
Her ethnicity and family ties became an issue in a high-profile case last year in which the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department was accused of racial profiling.
Murguia stepped aside after the defendants argued that her sister's activism raised concerns about her ability to be fair and impartial. The judge made it clear that she was reluctantly recusing herself, stating that "no reasonable person would automatically ascribe the views of one sibling to another."
That "generous reading of the recusal statute" could stand her in good stead during the confirmation process as it demonstrates a commendable judicial temperament, said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor. He predicted she would eventually win confirmation, despite the contentious state of the committee, because she has decided few controversial cases and has rarely been reversed.
The 9th Circuit handled more than 12,000 appeals last year. Federal appellate judges earn $184,500 a year and serve for life "upon good behavior."