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Rocky road for another 9th Circuit nominee?

Just as things start heating up for Goodwin Liu, the Cal law professor whom President Barack Obama nominated last month to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the President has named another nominee to that same appellate bench: U.S. District Judge Mary Murguia of Arizona.

Mary MurguiaIf confirmed, Murguia, 49, would have a lifetime appointment to a seat vacant since Feb. 12, when Circuit Judge Michael Daly Hawkins of Arizona took senior status. Nominated to the federal trial court by President Bill Clinton, she is the first Latina to serve on the federal bench in Arizona.

Earlier, she was counsel, principal deputy director and then director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. from 1998 to 2000; a prosecutor in the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s office from 1990 to 1998, the latter half of which she spent as chief criminal deputy; and a prosecutor in the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s office in Kansas City, Kan. (of which she’s a native) from 1985 to 1990. She holds two bachelors degrees and a law degree from the University of Kansas. (Boo, jayhawks.)

The dockets are Arizona’s federal courts are heavy with illegal-immigration and drug-related cases, so that’s some of the expertise Murguia is presumed to bring. Her confirmation probably won’t be smooth sailing: her twin sister is Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights and advocacy group that many conservatives see as a far-left outfit. In fact, she recused herself last year from handling a racial profiling case against Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, whom the NCLR has blasted repeatedly for his immigration enforcement methods.

Federal circuit judges are paid an annual salary of $184,500. The 9th Circuit court is the nation’s largest, serving nine western states and two Pacific Island jurisdictions, and reported 12,223 appeals filed in 2009.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.