Tucson attorney Rosemary Marquez was appointed a federal judge for Arizona Thursday, nearly three years after she was nominated for the post.
She was part of a group of six vacancies filled on the U.S. District Court for Arizona over the last two days.
“It’s obviously a wonderful day for myself and my family; we’re very excited and relieved that the wait is over,” Marquez said. “I’m very grateful to Senator (John) McCain and Senator (Jeff) Flake for making this happen for myself and the other five nominees.”
Marquez was admitted to the Arizona bar in 1993 and served as a federal public defender before going into private practice in 2000.
After attending the University of Arizona for undergraduate and law school, she worked as a county legal defender and then as a federal public defender.
“She is custom-made for the role of district court judge, especially here in Southern Arizona,” said Tucson attorney Louis Hollingsworth. “She will be the only judge on this bench who speaks Spanish fluently and who understands cultural issues involving Latino defendants.”
Originally nominated on June 23, 2011, Marquez had been waiting so long she had to be resubmitted for consideration by President Obama in 2013, when he began his second term.
“The length of time that it took from nomination to confirmation is an absolute aberration that I’ve been personally very disappointed with,” Hollingsworth said. “But I’ve admired her perseverance, her wiliness to forge ahead and keep her practice going while in Senate limbo for three years.”
Her place in judicial purgatory was reserved by former Sen. Jon Kyl, who refused to grant her a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The reason why Kyl kept Marquez waiting, even as her fellow nominee Jennifer Guerin Zipps breezed through confirmation in 2011, was never explained, said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Tucson.
“We never got an answer on that. Was it political, some position that she took? That’s the power that an individual senator has,” he said. “I’m glad that it happened, but this should have been done a long time ago.”
The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona is one of the busiest courts in the country and has been crushed under the weight of a growing caseload, including prosecutions related to drug and immigration offenses, said Michelle Schwartz with the Alliance for Justice, a group that tracks judicial nominations.
In 2011, then-chief Judge Roslyn Silver declared a judicial emergency, temporarily suspending the time limit set by federal law for bringing criminal defendants to trial, due to the large caseload.
Although Marquez’s wait was the longest, the slow process of bringing nominees up for confirmation has meant filling the seats temporarily. Last year alone, more than 50 outside judges had to be brought in to manage the caseload for the district, Schwartz said.
And while Grijalva pointed to the cost in taxpayer money needed to house visiting judges and their staffs, Schwartz also noted the human cost, with civil cases pushed to the back burner as the understaffed court focused on criminal matters.
Even with these vacancies filled, the court is still understaffed in relation to its current caseload. The Judicial Conference of the United States has recommended adding six new judgeships to the district.