Senate unanimously approves Phillips for federal judgeship

2013-07-08T23:45:00Z 2013-07-09T06:23:06Z Senate unanimously approves Phillips for federal judgeshipBy JOAN BARRON Casper Star-Tribune and wire reports The Billings Gazette

Wyoming Attorney General Greg Phillips sailed through his U.S. Senate confirmation on a unanimous 88-0 vote Monday to earn a seat on the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals based in Denver.

Both of Wyoming's U.S. Senators, Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, spoke on the Senate floor in support of the nomination of the 52-year-old former Evanston resident.

“I can personally attest to Mr. Phillips’ qualifications to serve as a federal judge,” Enzi said, according to a release from his office. “Greg was on the Senate Judiciary Committee when we served together in the Wyoming Legislature. On the Senate floor, we sat across from each other.”

Phillips represented Uinta County as a Democrat in the Wyoming Senate.

His nomination by Republican elected officials, despite the difference in political parties, was cited as an indicator of his qualifications to be a judge and the respect he has in the legal community.

Enzi said Phillips will be an outstanding judge to follow another longtime friend of his, Terrence O’Brien, who is retiring from the circuit judgeship.

"Terry and I, when he was a Wyoming district court judge and I was in the Wyoming state Senate, used to have dinner together to solve the world’s problems. Then I became a U.S. senator, and he became a U.S. circuit court judge. I know his successor will honorably fill the seat," Enzi said.

Barrasso said of Phillips, "The breadth of his experience, his understanding of the law and the role of a judge, as well as the thoroughness with which he approaches his responsibilities, will serve him well. I have no doubt that as his career continues, he will become a successful and respected member of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeal."

Gov. Matt Mead said he has known Phillips, his former law partner, for nearly 30 years.

"He has a great legal mind, common sense, the highest ethical standards, and a work ethic second to none," Mead said in a release. "This is a rare combination of attributes, which will serve Wyoming and our country for years to come. In my mind, there is no one better to sit on the 10th Circuit of Appeals than Greg Phillips.”

President Barack Obama nominated Phillips for a seat on the appeals court in January. Phillips has served as Wyoming's attorney general since March 2011. He was appointed by Mead, a Republican.

The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Phillips’ nomination by a unanimous voice vote on April 18.

Phillips grew up in Evanston and served as a Democratic state senator from Uinta County from 1993 to 1998. He's a graduate of the University of Wyoming College of Law and worked for two years after graduation for U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson in Cheyenne.

Before becoming Wyoming’s attorney general, he served seven years as an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Wyoming, handling criminal prosecutions and appeals. He has extensive experience arguing in federal court including taking nearly 20 cases before the Tenth Circuit.

Carl Tobias, Williams professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, monitors Senate judicial appointments.

“The Senate overwhelmingly confirmed Phillips because he is highly qualified [and] non-controversial, and had the strong support of the Wyoming senators.” Tobias said in an e-mail. “I expect that he will be an excellent judge on the 10th Circuit.”

The Denver-based 10th Circuit covers Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Yellowstone National Park.

Renny MacKay, spokesman for Mead, said Monday that the governor had no announcement yet on whom he will choose to replace Phillips as attorney general.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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