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Utah Senate blocks governor’s judicial nomination

December 8, 2020 GMT

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Republican-led Utah Senate has chosen not to host a hearing for one of outgoing Gov. Gary Herbert’s judicial nominations.

Margaret Plane was nominated to the state Court of Appeals in November after serving as special counsel for Park City for the past year and a half, the Deseret News reported Friday.

“This appointment is such an honor and I’m grateful for Gov. Herbert’s confidence in me,” Plane said in a statement in November. “If confirmed, I will be dedicated to the rule of law and will work incredibly hard to serve the people of Utah.”

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But when the schedule for the Dec. 17 Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee was posted last week, Plane’s name was not on the agenda. Five of Herbert’s other judicial nominations were listed.

Plane declined to comment on Friday.

Herbert’s office said the Senate should provide Plane a hearing.

“Margaret Plane is an exceptionally qualified attorney and an honorable person,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “We cannot imagine why the Senate would not schedule a hearing for her, and we encourage them to do so as soon as possible.”

Republican state Sen. Todd Weiler, chairman of the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee, said Plane was not included on the schedule because it was clear she would not get enough votes.

“As the committee chair, I am focused on getting as many of them confirmed as possible given the timeline, the pandemic and the holiday season,” Weiler said. “We have received an unusual amount of opposition to one of the candidates. After caucusing with my Senate colleagues twice, it was abundantly clear that one of the nominees lacked the necessary support to be confirmed. If that changes, I am prepared to schedule a hearing.”

The state Senate has 60 days to confirm Plane’s nomination before it expires. Herbert will leave the governor’s office in 2021.

Democratic state Sen. Derek Kitchen questioned whether some senators are focusing on politics and not Plane’s judicial record.

“I’m surprised she’s getting any pushback,” Kitchen said.

It would violate the state Constitution to select judges based on their political views, the Deseret News reported.

“Selection of judges shall be based solely upon consideration of fitness for office without regard to any partisan political consideration,” Article VIII, Section 8 of the state Constitution says.