The U.S. Senate has elevated a federal magistrate judge to the district court bench in Arizona, filling a position that has been vacant since the shooting death of Judge John Roll.
Senators moved with relative speed to confirm Judge Jennifer Zipps after President Barack Obama nominated her in June. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing in July at which she received one question, and she was confirmed without a formal vote late on Monday as one of six new appointees.
Roll, who was chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Arizona, died in January in the same incident in which U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was shot. Roll was attending a Giffords event for constituents outside a grocery store.
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has considered the district court in Arizona to be in a “judicial emergency” because of Roll’s death, other vacancies and a growing caseload. In remarks prepared for the Senate floor on Monday, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said Obama should have moved even faster to nominate someone for Roll’s seat. “It was deemed to be a judicial emergency instantly. However, it took over five months for the administration to nominate” Zipps, said Grassley, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in prepared remarks that the Senate’s swift consideration of Zipps’ nomination “sets the benchmark for how judicial nominations should be being treated.” Leahy added that he’s pushing Republicans to move as quickly on another district nominee for Arizona, Rosemary Marquez, a Tucson solo practitioner and former assistant federal public defender.
Zipps has worked in the same Tucson, Ariz., courthouse as Roll. She has been a U.S. magistrate judge since 2005 and previously spent 10 years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona, appearing often in Roll’s courtroom and eventually serving as the chief assistant U.S. attorney.