The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-5 to approve the nomination of Andrew Hurwitz, vice chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, to a post on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
He still must run the gauntlet of the full Senate for confirmation. And the closer the November election the tougher that gets. The committee vote was March 1.
A 2002 law review article by Hurwitz caught the attention of some pro-life groups. In that paper he took partial credit for drafting opinions as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart that would later be used in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, giving women the right to abortions.
But even conservative Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl went easy on Hurwitz during his January committee hearing.
Hurwitz’ biggest national legal claim to fame may be his arguing of the death penalty case of Timothy Ring before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002. The decision held that the Sixth Amendment requires juries – not judges — find there are aggravating factors necessary for imposing the death sentence.
It overturned prior case law that had allowed a judge to impose a death sentence even in the face of a jury’s recommendation of life in prison.
Hurwitz, 64, served as chief of staff for two Arizona governors, Bruce Babbitt and Rose Mofford. He was appointed to the state Supreme Court by a third governor, Janet Napolitano, now head of the Obama Administration’s Office of Homeland Security.
Hurwitz attended Princeton University and Yale Law School. He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart.
Although a native of New Jersey, he moved to Arizona in 1974 to practice law at the firm that became Osborn Maledon.
If confirmed he would become the 26th active judge on the court. He would fill the seat of former Chief Judge Mary Schroeder, who continues to serve on the court but in senior status. Once a judge opts for senior status it opens a vacancy on the court. A senior judge may take a reduced caseload.