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The Senate is moving at a quickened pace to fill the vacancy left by the shooting death of U.S. District Judge John Roll of Arizona, on a court that is considered to be a judicial emergency. U.S. Magistrate Judge Jennifer Zipps appeared on Wednesday for her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The hearing came five weeks after President Barack Obama nominated Zipps — a faster schedule than senators have been following for other recent judicial nominees. Zipps made it through the hearing with little trouble. Appearing with four other nominees for district courts, she received one question that was specific to her, and even that question, from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), was jokingly framed as an afterthought. “You come all the way here, and you want to be asked a question, that’s what I think,” Franken said near the end of the hearing. Franken asked Zipps about the process she uses to interpret a federal statute. She responded that she looks to the law’s plain words and to binding precedent. Failing those sources, she said she looks to evidence of legislative intent. Zipps works in the same federal courthouse in Tucson, Ariz., where Roll had his chambers. In January, Roll was shot and killed outside a grocery store where U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was holding a constituent event. He had been the chief district judge in Arizona. There are three vacancies on the state’s federal district court, and its filings per active judge qualify the district as a judicial emergency under guidelines written by the Judicial Conference of the United States. Zipps has been a federal magistrate since 2005. She previously spent 10 years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Tucson, the last three as the chief assistant. Arizona’s two Republican senators, Jon Kyl and John McCain, spoke in favor of Zipps’ confirmation, and Kyl thanked Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) for moving ahead with her nomination quickly. Kyl said it was not originally on the schedule for Wednesday’s hearing. A committee vote is likely in the next few weeks or in September, depending on whether the Senate is in session. Another nominee on Wednesday faced tougher questioning. Jesse Furman, nominated for the Southern District of New York, was prodded about opinion pieces he wrote while in college at Harvard including one pro-gun-control piece headlined, “Bang, Bang, You’re Dead! The NRA Supplied the Lead!” Furman, the deputy chief appellate attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, disavowed the writings. “I wrote those words as an 18-year-old with no legal experience or training and, frankly, spoke with more confidence than was warranted,” he said. Kyl, who asked about the writings, indicated he didn’t think they would be a barrier to confirmation. He said he had spoken to a Republican-appointed judge whom Furman has appeared before regularly and was reassured that Furman would follow precedent if confirmed. Kyl didn’t name the judge. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) asked about an amicus brief Furman wrote as an associate at Wiggin & Dana in New Haven, Conn. The brief was for the Anti-Defamation League in a case, Good News Club v. Milford Central School, before the Supreme Court about use of public school facilities by a group of religious students. The justices ruled against the position taken by Furman’s client, but Furman said he would follow the precedent if confirmed. Among those who have written letters in support of Furman is former U.S. attorney general Michael Mukasey, now a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton in New York. Furman clerked for Mukasey when he was a judge in the Southern District, and he was a counselor to Mukasey as attorney general. Furman also clerked for Justice David Souter. In the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, Furman has had a hand in several high-profile cases. In 2009 and 2010, he was assigned to the prosecution team for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and helped to draft the 10-count indictment of the accused terrorist. This year, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. announced the case was being transferred for trial in a military commission. According to a Senate questionnaire he filled out, Furman has assisted other prosecutors in the criminal cases involving Raj Rajaratnam of the Galleon Group, Times Square attempted bomber Faisal Shahzad and former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik. The other three district court nominees appearing Wednesday were Day Pitney partner Edgardo Ramos and U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Carter Jr., both for the Southern District of New York, and J. Rodney Gilstrap, a solo practitioner in Marshall, Texas, for the Eastern District of Texas. None faced opposition. David Ingram can be contacted at [email protected] .

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