First openly gay federal appeals judge confirmed; Obama names 3 nominees for district, circuit bench

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September has been a noteworthy month as far as the federal judiciary is concerned.

The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Tuesday, in a 98-0 vote, former Department of Justice lawyer Todd Hughes for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. He is the highest-ranking openly gay judge in the country’s history, NBC News reports. Seven previously were confirmed to sit on the federal district court bench.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama also made three new nominations for the federal bench Tuesday, following his announcement of another eight nominees less than a week ago.

The latest to be nominated, a White House press release announces, are David Jeremiah Barron, a Harvard Law School professor who formerly worked for the Department of Justice, for a seat on the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; and, for seats on the U.S. District Court bench in Massachusetts, District Attorney Mark G. Mastroianni of Hampden County, Mass.; and civil litigator Indira Talwani, a partner in the Boston law firm of Segal Roitman.

Hughes has served since 2007 as deputy director of the commercial branch of the Justice Department’s civil division and hence brings to the appeals court not only the experience of frequently appearing before the Federal Circuit bench but specialized knowledge concerning the government contracts, international trade, patent, trademarks, veterans’ and public safety officers’ benefits claims that it hears, reports the Washington Post (reg. req.).

Geovette Washington, a law school classmate of Hughes at Duke University who now serves as general counsel for the Office of Management and Budget, described him to the newspaper as a pragmatic problem solver who also “can do very complicated constitutional issues” and, because of his work at the DOJ, is well-prepared to hit the ground running at the Federal Circuit.

“I have always been amazed by how intelligent he is, but also how practical he is,” she said.

A White House press release at the time Hughes was nominated provides further details about Hughes’ background.

Last week, Obama nominated eight people to serve on the federal district court bench, as a White House press release announced. They included four nominees for the U.S. District Court in Arizona, as an Arizona Republic article detailed, as well as four others to serve as federal district judges in California, Illinois, Maine and Washington state.

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