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Hughes Confirmed Unanimously; First Openly Gay Appeals Ct. Judge

Unlike many of President Barack Obama's nominees for the federal bench, this one did not face delays or opposition. The White House announced today that 46-year-old Todd Hughes was confirmed unanimously by the Senate, filling a long-standing vacancy on the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hughes' confirmation marks the first time an openly-gay judge has served on a Federal Court of Appeals. Interestingly enough, the president's former nominee for the seat, Edward DuMont, whose confirmation was stalled for years before he withdrew, is also openly gay.

Hughes' Career

The Duke Law School alum has worked for the Department of Justice since 1994, and is currently serving as deputy director of the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Justice Department's Civil Division, handling matters similar to those heard as part of the Federal Circuit's unique jurisdiction, reports Buzzfeed.

Prior to joining the Justice Department, Hughes clerked for Judge Robert Krupansky of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals for two years.

The Response

"I am proud that the Senate is finally taking an historic step to break down another barrier and increase diversity on our Federal bench," Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said in a statement posted on his website.

The White House called this a "historic confirmation" that was "yet another 'first' among President Obama's federal judges." The administration also provided an infographic detailing the diversity of the president's nominees, and the lengths of the delays that the nominees have faced generally over the president's tenure.

Politico notes that prior to today, Obama has been reluctant to address the demographic backgrounds of nominees, including not explicitly mentioning that Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is a Latina. Today's infographic takes the opposite approach, comparing the demographics and "firsts" of Obama's nominees with prior administrations, as well as the delays in confirming appointments.

The shift in strategy may have been in response to the delays in confirmations and the growing number of vacancies on the federal bench, which currently sits at 91, compared to 48 at this point in former President George W. Bush's term.

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