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Openly gay judge a first for Federal Circuit

| Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, 7:15 p.m.

WASHINGTON — When the Senate voted 98-0 to confirm Justice Department attorney Todd Hughes for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Tuesday, it didn't just put another one of President Obama's judicial nominees on the federal bench: It seated the first openly gay Federal Circuit judge in history.

Hughes, who has served as deputy director of the commercial litigation branch of the Justice Department's civil division since 2007, has specialized in the kinds of issues that come up before the bench on which he will soon sit. Unlike the other 12 Circuit Courts of Appeals, the Federal Circuit specializes in a handful of designated issues including international trade, government contracts, patents, trademarks, veterans benefits and public safety officers' benefits claims. Hughes could not be reached for a comment.

After the vote, White House counsel Kathryn Reummler published a blog post celebrating the confirmation as “yet another ‘first” among President Obama's judges.”

“Like all of the President's judicial nominees, Hughes has the intellect, experience, integrity, and temperament to be a successful judge. He is also gay,” she wrote, adding that under Obama Hispanics, blacks and Asian-Americans have broken barriers in the federal judiciary. “We look forward to the ‘seconds' and ‘thirds' who will come after Todd Hughes and his fellow ‘firsts' currently serving on our courts.”

Geovette Washington, who is the Office of Management and Budget's general counsel and has been friends with Hughes since they attended law school together, described him as “a problem solver” who “can do very complicated constitutional issues,” but also brings a degree of pragmatism to cases.

“I have always been amazed by how intelligent he is, but also how practical he is,” she said, adding that Hughes is well prepared for the Federal Circuit because he's appeared before it so many times. “He's dug in and done the hard work on those issues.”

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