POCATELLO, Idaho (AP)
The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Idaho state Judge Norman Randy Smith to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday, filling a seat on a court where judicial nominations have been stalled for years. The Senate approved the nomination on a 94-0 vote. “As a kid from Idaho, I couldn’t have received a better honor,” Smith said in a statement following the vote. Smith is a 6th District judge in Pocatello. President Bush originally nominated him to a 9th Circuit seat held by a judge who lived in Idaho but previously had lived in California. However, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., threatened to block the nomination, contending the seat was a California seat. Bush then nominated Smith to replace retiring Thomas G. Nelson of Idaho. Idaho Sens. Larry Craig and Mike Crapo, both Republicans, supported the nomination. “Idahoans deserve a reasoned, experienced voice on the 9th Circuit,” Crapo said. “They have one in Judge Smith.” The unanimous vote demonstrates the respect Smith has among the legal community, Craig said. “He will serve Idaho and our country well on the 9th Circuit as one who understands judges interpret law, they don’t create it,” Craig said. The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit hears appeals from courts in nine Western states, as well as the territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Republicans have said Smith as well as Bush nominee William Gerry Myers III of Idaho would bring ideological balance to one of the most liberal courts in the nation. Myers is the former top lawyer at the Interior Department. Liberal groups have attacked his record of opposing environmental protections when he worked as a lobbyist for cattle and mining interests. American Indian groups have also spoken out against him, in particular for an Interior Department decision that cleared the way for a gold mine in California they say threatens tribal lands.