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Senate confirms Gonzales

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate on Monday unanimously confirmed Kenneth Gonzales as federal judge for the District of New Mexico.

The Senate voted 89-0 to confirm Gonzales, with both of New Mexico’s senators voting in support of his nomination. Gonzales, who has served as the U.S. attorney for New Mexico since 2010, was first nominated for the federal bench last year, but the 112th Congress never took up his nomination.

President Barack Obama resubmitted Gonzales’ nomination at the beginning of the current Congress. In a statement provided to the

Journal

, Gonzales said he was grateful for the “tremendous support” of Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, as well as former Sen. Jeff Bingaman, who also backed Gonzales for the federal judgeship before his retirement in January.

“It has been an absolute privilege to serve the people of New Mexico as U.S. attorney, and I am humbled by the opportunity to continue to serve the public in a judicial capacity,” Gonzales said. “I will continue to serve as U.S. attorney for a brief period to ensure a smooth transition for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico before I take my judicial oath and begin service as a U.S. District Court judge in Las Cruces.”

Udall and Heinrich went to the Senate floor Monday to encourage their colleagues to confirm Gonzales.

“With an impressive range of legal experience and expertise, Ken is an exceptional nominee who will serve New Mexico well on the federal bench,” Udall said in a statement after the vote. “I applaud the Senate for this unanimous vote and know Ken looks forward to the work ahead through this important judgeship.”

“Throughout his career, Ken has shown a dedication to serving the people of New Mexico,” Heinrich said. “It is the sum of all of his efforts and accomplishments that make me believe he will make an outstanding addition to the federal bench. I’m pleased that today we’ve made the final step toward getting him there.”

Gonzales, a Pojoaque High School graduate who earned his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of New Mexico, beat out four other New Mexico candidates recommended to Obama in September by Udall and former Sen. Jeff Bingaman, also a Democrat. Gonzales will replace retiring federal Judge Bruce Black.

The Senate Judiciary Committee had delayed its vote on Gonzales since February over concerns that Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the panel’s ranking Republican, had about the New Mexico U.S. attorney’s prosecution of a Deming-area gun case. A federal judge in February ruled that federal prosecutors from Gonzales’ office improperly withheld damaging information about a key prosecution witness in the federal gun case. But Grassley said in April that a committee inquiry into the matter allayed his concerns about Gonzales, and the committee voted unanimously to approve his nomination.

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