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Sept. 24 --The full Senate unanimously confirmed Todd M. Hughes to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit Sept. 24 in a vote hailed as a “critical step” towards improving the diversity of the federal bench.
Hughes, who most recently served as a deputy director at the U.S. Department of Justice, was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee July 18.
During his Sept. 24 floor remarks the chairman of that committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), was critical of his colleagues for not moving sooner on Hughes's confirmation. However, Leahy applauded the Senate for ultimately confirming Hughes, who Leahy noted will be the first openly gay judge to serve on a federal appeals court.
“I am proud that today the Senate is finally taking this critical step to break down another barrier and increase diversity on our Federal bench,” Leahy said.
President Barack Obama nominated both Hughes and Raymond T. Chen to the Federal Circuit on Feb. 7 to fill vacancies created when Judges Richard Linn and William C. Bryson assumed senior status.
Chen, who previously served as the Patent and Trademark Office's solicitor, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee May 16 and his nomination was confirmed by the Senate Aug. 1.
Like Chen, Hughes has a long history of representing the government in Federal Circuit appeals. However, in contrast to Chen's vast experience in patent cases, Hughes's background includes no patent-related work at all.
“Intellectual property will be the main area of the court's jurisprudence that I will have to work hard to get up to speed on,” Hughes said at his nomination hearing in the committee.
Prior to his confirmation, Hughes was serving as deputy director of the DOJ's Commercial Litigation Branch of the Civil Division, Washington, D.C. He first joined the branch in 1994 as a trial attorney, and became deputy director in 2007.
Hughes received a bachelor's degree from Harvard College in 1989 and completed a joint degree program with Duke University, earning both a law degree and a master's degree in English in 1992. After graduating from law school, Hughes clerked for Judge Robert B. Krupansky of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He joined the DOJ right after his clerkship ended.
He has represented the DOJ before the Federal Circuit on a number of occasions, though none related to patent issues. According to the administration's statement when Hughes was nominated, “Throughout his career with the Department of Justice, Hughes's practice has been devoted to matters of federal personnel law, veterans' benefits, international trade, government contracts, and jurisdictional issues regarding the United States Court of Federal Claims.”
Those issues all fall within the suite of matters handled by the Federal Circuit. In his responses to Congress's questionnaire of judicial nominees, Hughes noted that he has argued 26 cases before the court, including two when the court was sitting en banc.
“I have personally handled roughly 200 cases, about 100 of which were in the Federal Circuit,” he said. Hughes further listed activities indicating that he has been an active member of the Federal Circuit Bar Association.
His appellate work covered “the broad range of the Federal Circuit's non-patent jurisprudence,” he wrote.
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