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Consuelo Maria Callahan’s nomination to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals was approved by the Senate on a 99-0 vote Thursday. Callahan, a former state prosecutor, now sits on the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento. “I consider it service at the highest order to be able to serve my country as a judge,” Callahan said Thursday. Despite the unanimous vote, she said it was “an exhaustive process, but appropriately so because it’s a lifetime appointment.” Callahan, 52, was a 10-year prosecutor for the San Joaquin County district attorney’s office. She served on the Stockton Municipal Court bench from 1986 to 1992, when then-Gov. Pete Wilson appointed her to the San Joaquin County Superior Court bench. She was the first woman and first Hispanic to serve there, and in 1996 Wilson elevated her to the court of appeal. Earlier Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Michael Chertoff’s nomination to the Third Circuit. The appointment of Chertoff, the head of the criminal division at the Justice Department and a former federal prosecutor in New Jersey, hadn’t been controversial. But on the eve of a scheduled vote, Judicial Watch, a conservative group, circulated letters to lawmakers alleging it had “important evidence concerning the misuse of organized crime operatives by the FBI” and other agencies when Chertoff was U.S. attorney for New Jersey. Though Chertoff’s nomination was approved, several members voiced concerns, and Hatch pledged the committee would investigate the Judicial Watch allegations before the nomination is brought up for a vote in the Senate. In other business, the committee approved legislation that would give federal judges a 16.6 percent pay raise, an average of $25,000 a year. The measure is intended to make up for years in which judicial salaries were frozen. Those freezes occurred because federal law permits judges to receive pay raises only when members of Congress do, and lawmakers have blocked increases several times in recent years. The measure also allows judicial salaries to rise with the cost of living in the future, regardless of congressional pay. Additionally, the legislation would give federal judges the discretion to allow television cameras in their courtrooms. An Associated Press report was used in preparing this story.

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