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Tucson's Hinderaker confirmed as federal judge, months after nomination

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Tucson's Hinderaker confirmed as federal judge, months after nomination

  • Judge John Hinderaker
    Pima County Superior CourtJudge John Hinderaker

A seat on the federal bench in Southern Arizona will be filled by Judge John Hinderaker, a Democrat whose nomination by President Donald Trump last year languished in the U.S. Senate for months.

Hinderaker was confirmed by the Senate in a 70-27 vote Wednesday, with a mix of Republicans and four Democratic senators voting against seating him.

Both of Arizona's senators, Krysten Sinema and Martha McSally, voted yes.

Hinderaker, who was appointed as a Pima County Superior Court judge by Gov. Doug Ducey in 2018, was championed by Sinema, who recommended him for the federal post that opened up when Judge Raner Collins moved to senior status last year.

He was nominated by Trump on Dec. 2, 2019, but he and fellow Pima County nominee Judge Scott Rash were not quickly confirmed. On March 5, 2020, Hinderaker's nomination was given a nod by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 16-6 vote, with 6 Republicans opposing it.

Among those Democrats voting "no" on Wednesday were Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat.

Rash, a Republican, was nominated last September, but a 16-6 Judiciary Committee vote (with Democrats opposing) did not occur until January. Rash's place on the bench was confirmed in a 74-20 vote, with only Democrats opposed. Sinema and McSally both voted in favor.

Hinderaker "brings to the bench a wealth of legal knowledge, decades of litigation experience, and a stellar reputation for integrity and fairness. I’m pleased the White House worked with me to advance his nomination and the Senate confirmed him with bipartisan support," Sinema said.

With the confirmation, the Senate is "now one step closer to eliminating our state's judicial emergencies," said McSally, who called Hinderaker as "well-respected member of the Tucson legal community with many years of experience."

Hinderaker's appointment bolsters Arizona's U.S. District Court bench, which has had many vacant judgeships over the past decade — a situation that has led to repeated declarations of "judicial emergencies" that allow for lengthened time limits to try cases because of overloaded dockets.

That stretch began when there were three vacancies after the murder of U.S. District Court Judge John Roll in the Jan. 8, 2011, assassination attempt against then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Roll and five others were killed in the shooting.

"Today's confirmation will also ease Arizona's judicial shortage, which has burdened our federal judges with heavy caseloads that hinder their ability to effectively do their jobs," said McSally. "This judgeship in Tucson will be critical in maintaining the nation's security and safety at Arizona's southern border."

In Pima County, Hinderaker has served as a judge with family court and criminal dockets in Superior Court.

Before his appointment as a judge, he worked as a partner in the Tucson office of Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP, focusing on commercial, real estate and land use cases in his 20 years as an attorney. Hinderaker clerked for Judge Roll and the late U.S. Judge Magistrate Raymond T. Terlizzi.

He is a 1996 graduate of the University of Arizona College of Law.

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