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Washington • A hockey stick, a horror flick and a prank don't often play into confirmation hearings for federal appellate nominees, but all three were part of Utah Court of Appeals Presiding Judge Carolyn McHugh's appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Sen. Mike Lee joked in introducing McHugh to the panel that she admitted once hitting her brother with a hockey stick after he hid under her bed and shook it following a screening of "The Exorcist."

If McHugh is later approved to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Lee said, "We hope that the hockey stick will be used only sparingly."

Lee and Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah's two Republican senators, back McHugh for the federal appellate court whose jurisdiction includes the Beehive State, and if her confirmation hearing is any indication, she should sail through the process begun when President Barack Obama nominated her in May.

After finding out that McHugh has several siblings, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., wanted to know, "How many did you hit with a hockey stick?"

Well, said McHugh, "I'm not sure I caught my brother with the hockey stick. It was more brandishing."

Then-Gov. Jon Huntsman named McHugh, a former litigator, to the state's appellate court in 2005 and she became the presiding judge last year. The White House noted that, if confirmed, McHugh would be the first woman from Utah on the 10th Circuit, one of many nominees who would hold similar distinctions throughout the United States.

"These 'firsts' are important, not because these judges will consider cases differently, but because a judiciary that better resembles our nation instills even greater confidence in our justice system, and because these judges will serve as role models for generations of lawyers to come," said Chris Kang, a senior counsel to the president.

Hatch praised McHugh and said she'd make a great appellate judge.

"We would like to see that take place as soon as possible," Hatch said.

The Judiciary Committee is expected to vote in the coming month on McHugh's confirmation after which her name will be sent to the full Senate.