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Washington • In a last-minute deal, the Senate, by a voice vote, confirmed Utahn Scott Matheson Jr. to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

Matheson, whose nomination would have lapsed had the Senate not voted, will fill a spot vacated by former University of Utah law professor Michael McConnell, who resigned to pursue scholarly interests. The Senate approved Matheson, 57, in its last vote before adjourning.

Reached Wednesday afternoon, Matheson said he coudn't comment on the confirmation other than to say, "I'm thankful, honored, excited and very pleased that it's finally done."

Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican who shepherded through the nomination to the appeals court, pushed to include Matheson in a package of judges to garner approval in the last moments of the Senate's session this year.

The senator called Matheson, a former Democratic gubernatorial candidate, "very intellectually gifted."

"He's a man with all the qualifications and, hopefully, will do an excellent job on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals," Hatch said. "It's a great opportunity for him; it's a great opportunity for our state to have someone of his intellectual capacity on the court."

Matheson, the son of the late Gov. Scott Matheson and brother to U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, is the former dean of the U.'s law school, previously taught First Amendment law at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and served as U.S. attorney for Utah and as a Rhodes scholar.

Jim Matheson was ecstatic the Senate moved to approve his brother before leaving town.

"I think that all of us should be proud to have someone of his intellect, integrity and his judgment," the representative said. "I think he surpasses everyone else in that regard. I can't think of anyone more qualified."

Hiram Chodosh, dean of the University of Utah law school, said that despite all Matheson's other public service roles, this job is the one that suits him best.

"Scott is about as well prepared and experienced and talented as one can get for this role," Chodosh said. "Scott has a great legal mind and great dedication and loyalty to the law — he's extremely thoughtful in all that he does. And I think the fact that he was able to be confirmed in this political climate speaks not only to Scott as a person, but also a reflection of the future for him as a judge."

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously six months ago to move his name forward for the appeals court spot, though his nomination got bogged down in a spat over other controversial judges.

The only hiccup in Matheson's nomination came from Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who objected to phrasing in Matheson's book, Presidential Constitutionalism in Perilous Times, that appeared to take on former President George W. Bush. Kyl didn't object to Matheson's confirmation, however.

It's unclear yet when Matheson will be sworn in.

Scott Matheson Jr.

Joined the University of Utah College of Law faculty in 1985 following four years as an associate at the Washington, D.C., firm Williams & Connolly.

Served from 1988-89 as Salt Lake County deputy attorney as part of a faculty exchange program, and during 1989-90 he was visiting associate professor on the First Amendment at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

Was U.S. Attorney for Utah from 1993 to 1997 and was dean of the U. College of Law from 1998 to 2006.

Was public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars during the 2006-07 academic year.

Published his book "Presidential Constitutionalism in Perilous Times" in 2009.

Source • University of Utah College of Law