TOPEKA — President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated a Kansas Supreme Court justice to the federal appeals court that handles cases from six western and Plains states.
Obama’s selection of Justice Nancy Moritz for the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals drew an immediate endorsement from U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a Republican who’s often criticized the president’s policies. Moran described Moritz, who’s served on Kansas’ highest court for 2 1/2 years, as “highly qualified” and said he intends to vote for her confirmation.
Moran’s endorsement is significant because he and the state’s other, senior U.S. senator, Pat Roberts, also a Republican, successfully opposed Obama’s nomination of former state Attorney General Steve Six to the same appeals court in 2011. The Denver-based 10th Circuit court reviews cases from Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.
Obama also nominated Kansas City-area attorney Daniel Crabtree to a federal judgeship in Kansas, and Moran said in a statement that the selection of Moritz and Crabtree resulted from “many months of serious negotiations.”
“I am pleased we were able to come to an agreement,” Moran said. “The president has sent the Senate two highly qualified candidates.”
Moritz, 53, would fill a vacancy on the 10th Circuit created more than two years ago when Judge Deanell Tacha, of Lawrence, retired and became dean of the law school at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.
Moritz’s confirmation to the federal appeals court also would lead to conservative Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s first appointment to the seven-member Kansas Supreme Court. However, under the state constitution, a nominating commission would screen applications and name three finalists for Brownback, and legislators will have no role after his appointment.
Moritz joined the Kansas Supreme Court in January 2011 after being appointed by outgoing Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson. She had served seven years on the Kansas Court of Appeals.
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 before then-Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius named her to the state appeals court in 2004.
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.
Crabtree is a partner in the laws firm of Stinson Morrison Hecker and has been in private practice since 1981. He’s the general counsel for the Kansas City Royals professional baseball team.
He’ll fill a vacancy created on the U.S. District Court bench in Kansas when Judge John Lungstrum took senior status in 2010.