Washington — The Senate on Friday unanimously confirmed U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren of Kansas to become the newest judge on the federal bench in Wichita.
Melgren's confirmation comes just three days after the state's top federal prosecutor breezed through a confirmation hearing and just one day after he was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
It was not immediately known when Melgren would step down as U.S. attorney to be sworn in as a judge.
A solid conservative and longtime Republican party activist, Melgren's confirmation was spearheaded by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., his close friend and one-time employer.
"Eric is a highly qualified individual," Brownback said. "Throughout his distinguished career, he has consistently upheld the Constitution and the highest moral standards and has proven he will be an outstanding U.S. district judge."
The breakneck speed with which the Senate acted is unusual for the waning days of a presidential administration, particularly when the outgoing president is a Republican and Democrats control Congress. Melgren was one of 10 judicial nominees confirmed to courts around the country on Friday.
But Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., was determined to show that a Democratic led-panel could act more swiftly in filling vacant judicial seats than his Republican predecessors did during the Clinton White House.
Melgren was first nominated for the post in July. His rapid rise through the system - even leapfrogging some candidates in other states who were nominated earlier - was aided by Brownback, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Leahy indicated earlier this week that he considered acting on Melgren's nomination a favor to Brownback.
Melgren has served as U.S. attorney since 2002. He will replace U.S. District Judge Monti Belot, who took senior status earlier this year.
He was unanimously rated "well qualified" by the American Bar Association, which is the highest rating the group can give judicial nominees.