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Opinion

Arizona attorney Roopali Desai tapped for 9th Circuit by Biden

Arizona attorney Roopali Desai, noted for her election law experience and a triple graduate of the University of Arizona, has been nominated by President Joe Biden to serve on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

She is part of a slate of seven judicial nominees submitted to the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, and would be the first South Asian to serve on the massive appeals court.

Desai, the daughter of immigrants from India who was born in Canada before coming to Phoenix as a child, is a partner at Coppersmith Brockelman, a law firm in Arizona. Earlier in her career, Desai worked as an associate at Lewis & Roca and from 2005 to 2006, clerked  for Chief Judge Mary Schroeder, the most senior jurist on the court to which Desai is set to ascend.

The Phoenix-area resident was named the Arizona honoree among USA Today's "Women of the Year" in March, after becoming prominent in her work fighting lawsuits over Biden's election victory in Arizona. She's also won cases in favor of the "Invest in Ed" state education-funding initiative, and was one of the organizers behind Arizona's recreational marijuana initiative, and last year's state Supreme Court decision tossing out dozens of laws that had been unconstitutionally "log rolled" into the state budget by Republicans in the Legislature.

She also helped push through a sales-tax increase to fund Tucson's Reid Park.

Desai has not been a judge, but the liberal attorney has garnered praise from Republicans. Kirk Adams, former chief of staff to Gov. Doug Ducey, told USA Today that "even when she's an opponent, she's fair." Adams and Desai worked together on a 2020 prison reform effort that did not make it to the ballot.

In addition to election law, Desai has been on the winning side in health-care contract and zoning lawsuits, and been the attorney for the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona and United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association.

She earned her undergraduate degree, master’s degree and law degree from the University of Arizona, where she graduated in 2005. Desai is a professor of practice in the James E. Rogers College of Law.

If confirmed by the Senate, Desai will take the place of Judge Andrew David Hurwitz, who is retiring.

The 9th Circuit hears appeals of district court rulings in nine states and two territories. It stretches from Missoula, Mont., to the Northern Marianas Islands and from Nogales to Nome, Alaska.

Biden's newest candidates for the federal bench bring his total of nominated judges to 105, of which 68 have been confirmed.

Desai and the others nominated to be judges are "extraordinarily qualified, experienced, and devoted to the rule of law and our Constitution," White House officials said.

"These choices also continue to fulfill the president's promise to ensure that the nation's courts reflect the diversity that is one of our greatest assets as a country — both in terms of personal and professional backgrounds," the White House said.

If confirmed, the new judges will include "the first Latino to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the first woman of color to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.... and the first openly LGBT federal district court judge in Puerto Rico," in addition to Desai being the first South Asian on the 9th Circuit bench, the White House said.

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Coppersmith Brockelman

Arizona attorney Roopali Desai has been nominated by President Biden to serve on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.