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Obama taps Az justice for federal appeals court

State supreme court judge nominated

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew David Hurwitz to a seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hurwitz, whose nomination must still be approved by the Senate, was praised Wednesday by a former bar association official as a “good all-around person and great lawyer and tremendous judge.”

Neither of Arizona’s senators, Jon Kyl or John McCain, was immediately available to comment on the nomination Wednesday evening.

Hurwitz, a one-time chief of staff to former Arizona Govs. Bruce Babbitt and Rose Mofford, has practiced law in Arizona since 1974 and has been a judge on the state’s high court since 2003.

His nomination follows a 37-year law career that included a clerkship at the U.S. Supreme Court where he later argued two cases as a private attorney.

Most famously, he successfully argued Ring v. Arizona before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002. In that case, the high court ruled that only juries, not a judge, could decide to impose the death penalty on a capital convict in Arizona.

Alan Bayham, former president of the State Bar of Arizona, said he believes the president made a wise choice by nominating Hurwitz. He said Hurwitz’s personality as a strength he brings to the bench.

“He’s got the best temperament or one of the best temperaments of any lawyer or judge that I’ve met,” Bayham said. “He has a tremendous wit.”

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Bayham emphasized that although Hurwitz is a registered Democrat, politics have been a non-factor in his service on the state’s supreme court.

“He’s one of those judges that basically does the right thing regardless of who’s on which side,” Bayham said. “So I don’t think that makes any difference with regard to any decision that he’s ever made that I’ve ever seen.”

Hurwitz, a native New Yorker, earned his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and his law degree from Yale Law School. In addition to private practice and his time on the state bench, he has been an adjunct professor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University over the past three decades.

“Andy Hurwitz is one of the premier jurists of our time, a longtime friend of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and a treasured adjunct professor whose wisdom has benefited hundreds of our law students,” said Douglas Sylvester, interim dean of the law school, in a prepared statement. “While we will miss his dynamic presence in the classroom, we congratulate him on the nomination and wish him all the best.”

Law school officials said Hurwitz currently teaches civil procedure but has taught everything from ethics to Supreme Court litigation over the past 34 years.

In his announcement of the nomination, Obama called Hurwitz “not only a first-rate legal mind but a faithful public servant.”

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