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Longtime DOJ lawyer becomes first openly gay judge to serve on a federal appeals court

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Sep 25, 2013

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- The U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted to confirm Todd Hughes to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Hughes was confirmed unanimously, 98-0.

For the last six years, he has served as the deputy director of the U.S. Department of Justice's commercial litigation branch of the civil division.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., hailed Hughes' confirmation.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said it marks an important milestone for the judicial branch -- Hughes is the first openly gay judge ever to serve on a federal appeals court.

"I am proud that today the Senate is finally taking this critical step to break down another barrier and increase diversity on our federal bench," Leahy said.

President Barack Obama nominated Hughes to the Federal Circuit in February, to fill the seat vacated by Judge William Curtis Bryson, who took senior status in January.

Hughes received a hearing before the judiciary committee in June and was reported to the Senate floor in July by voice vote.

His nomination was pending in the Senate for more than two months.

Hughes earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard College, and earned both his law degree and a master's degree from Duke University.

In 1994, he joined the commercial litigation branch of the DOJ's civil division as a trial attorney. He then was appointed assistant director for commercial litigation in 1999 and became deputy director in 2007.

With Hughes' confirmation, 13 circuit and district court nominees await confirmation, including 11 who won unanimous backing by the judiciary committee.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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