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Senate approves replacement for judge slain at Giffords shooting

By Bill Mears, CNN
updated 1:38 PM EDT, Tue October 4, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Judge Jennifer Guerin Zipps, nominated in June, wins approval
  • She replaces Judge John Roll, who died in the Tucson shooting in January
  • Her approval was expedited; Democrats and GOP take jabs at each other

Washington (CNN) -- The Senate has moved quickly, in Washington terms, to confirm a replacement for slain federal Judge John Roll, killed in the mass shooting at a Tucson shopping center in January.

Jennifer Guerin Zipps was elevated from a magistrate to a seat on the U.S. District Court in Arizona. She works in the same Tucson courthouse as her predecessor. As a former federal prosecutor Zipps, 47, had appeared often in Roll's courtroom.

President Barack Obama nominated Zipps in June, and she was confirmed late Monday by a Senate voice vote. The seat was declared a "judicial emergency" because of Roll's death, other bench vacancies, and a rapidly growing caseload fueled by illegal immigration cases.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, praised the bipartisan cooperation that led to the relatively swift action on Zipps, saying it "sets the benchmark for how judicial nominations should be being treated." Senate Democrats have been pushing for similar action on another pending District Court nominee in Arizona, Rosemary Marquez.

Five other judicial nominees also were confirmed by the Senate this week.

Democrats and Republicans have been at odds over the pace of confirming judges for lifetime positions on the federal bench.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking GOP member on the Judiciary Committee criticized the president for not moving faster to fill the Roll vacancy. "It was deemed to be a judicial emergency instantly. However, it took over five months for the administration to nominate" Zipps, Grassley said.

Roll, 63, was among five killed by gunfire outside a Safeway store January 8. Thirteen others were wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona.

The suspect, Jared Lee Loughner, is being forcibly medicated to determine whether he will someday be competent to stand trail on capital murder charges.

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