- Associated Press - Monday, May 5, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The U.S. Senate on Monday confirmed the appointment of a Kansas Supreme Court justice to the federal appeals court that handles cases from six western and Plains states.

The chamber voted 90-3 to confirm Nancy Moritz to the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. President Barack Obama nominated Moritz in August 2013.

The 54-year-old Moritz will fill the vacancy created in 2011 when Judge Deanell Tacha, a Kansan, retired and became dean of the law school at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.

Her nomination by the Democratic president had the support of Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, a Republican. When her nomination was announced last year, Moran said it was the result of “many months of serious negotiations.”

After Monday’s vote, Moran issued a statement saying she was “well-prepared” to serve on the federal appeals court, which reviews cases from Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, a Republican, also voted to confirm her.

“I am confident Nancy’s service on the 10th Circuit will be guided by the values we hold in Kansas, including empathy for others and respect for the rule of law,” Moran said.

The only votes against Moritz came from Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Mike Crapo and James Risch of Idaho.

Moritz’s confirmation gives conservative Republican Gov. Sam Brownback his first chance to appoint someone to the seven-member Kansas Supreme Court. However, under the state constitution, a nominating commission will screen applications and name three finalists for Brownback, and legislators will have no role after his appointment.

Moritz was born in Beloit in north-central Kansas and grew up in the nearby small town of Tipton. She received her law degree from Washburn University in Topeka in 1985. She was an attorney in private practice for six years before becoming a federal prosecutor in 1995, and she eventually became coordinator of appellate cases for the U.S. attorney’s office for Kansas.

In 2004, Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius appointed Moritz to the Kansas Court of Appeals. She joined the state's highest court in January 2011, after being appointed by outgoing Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson, who was followed in office by Brownback.

Moran’s backing of Moritz’s appointment to the federal court was significant because he and Roberts opposed Obama’s nomination in 2011 of former state Attorney General Steve Six, a Democrat, to the same court. Their stance prompted the Senate Judiciary Committee to drop plans to vote on Six’s nomination, effectively scuttling it.

Six’s nomination became enmeshed in abortion politics, as abortion opponents attacked him over decisions he made as state attorney general from 2008 to 2011 in a now-dismissed criminal case against a Planned Parenthood clinic.

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Online:

Nancy Moritz biography: http://bit.ly/1bQ6nhI

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