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Washington • President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated Utah Court of Appeals Presiding Judge Carolyn B. McHugh to the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to replace a more senior judge taking on a smaller caseload.

Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee suggested McHugh, who joined the Utah appellate court in 2005, and both Utah Republicans support the nomination.

"Judge McHugh is smart, qualified, and really represents everything we look for in a judge," Hatch said in a statement. "Carolyn has proven herself as not only an exceptional jurist on the Utah Court of Appeals, but also a great student of the law."

Lee predicted a quick confirmation.

"Her rich experience, outstanding intellect, and steadfast character will be a great asset to the federal bench, and I look forward to working with Senator Hatch to help ensure her speedy confirmation," Lee said.

McHugh was a partner in the Salt Lake City law firm of Parr Waddoups Brown Gee & Loveless until her appointment to the bench by then-Gov. Jon Huntsman.

Currently, in addition to her position as Appeals Court presiding judge, she serves on the Judicial Conduct Commission, the Commission on Character and Civic Education, the Standing Committee on Court Technology, as judicial liaison to the appellate section of the Utah State Bar, and as chairwoman of the Standing Committee on Judicial Outreach.

If confirmed, McHugh would take over for Judge Michael Murphy, a Clinton administration appointee who served as a Utah state judge before he was elevated to his current post. Murphy is taking senior status, meaning he will hear fewer cases.

Obama praised McHugh for displaying "exceptional dedication to the legal profession."

"She will be a diligent, judicious and esteemed addition to the 10th Circuit bench," he said.

The White House noted that since becoming a judge on the Utah Appeals Court, McHugh has handled 1,100 criminal and civil cases and issued 285 opinions.

The 10th Circuit covers federal appeals for six states, including Utah and Colorado. It's based in Denver.

Including Murphy, Utah has three other judges on the panel: Scott Matheson Jr., Monroe McKay and Stephen Hale Anderson.