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Senate Confirms Ken Gonzales For U.S. District Judge

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich announced today that the Senate voted unanimously to approve the nomination of Kenneth J. Gonzales to be a U.S. District Judge for New Mexico. The New Mexico Senators delivered remarks on the floor of the Senate before the vote in support of Gonzales' confirmation. 

"With an impressive range of legal experience and expertise, Ken is an exceptional nominee who will serve New Mexico well on the federal bench," said Udall. "I applaud the Senate for this unanimous vote and know Ken looks forward to the work ahead through this important judgeship."  

"Throughout his career, Ken has shown a dedication to serving the people of New Mexico," said Heinrich. "It is the sum of all of his efforts and accomplishments that make me believe he will make an outstanding addition to the federal bench. I'm pleased that today we've made the final step toward getting him there."

Gonzales was nominated for the judgeship by President Obama on January 4, 2013. Udall and Heinrich introduced Gonzales at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 13, 2013.Video from that hearing is available here and photos are available here. His nomination passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a unanimous voice vote on April 11, 2013.

Gonzales is a graduate of Pojoaque High School. He received his Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor degrees from the University of New Mexico. He began his career as federal prosecutor in the Las Cruces branch of the U.S. Attorney's Office for New Mexico and later transferred to Albuquerque. Prior to that, he served as a judicial law clerk to former chief justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court, Joseph Baca, and later as a legislative assistant to former Senator Jeff Bingaman on criminal justice, Indian affairs and other issues. He has also served as a judge advocate in the U.S. Army Reserve since 2001. 

Transcript of Sen. Heinrich’s remarks:

Mr. President, I would like to take a few minutes to speak about the nomination of Kenneth Gonzales to be a federal district judge for New Mexico.

Ken, as he’s known to most of us back home in New Mexico, is truly a standout nominee. 

I wish I could take credit for his nomination, but that credit belongs to the former Senator from New Mexico, Jeff Bingaman, and the senior Senator, Tom Udall.  I thank both of them for putting forward such a great candidate.   I am pleased to be here today to support him.  

Ken has a long and distinguished record of public service, including more than a decade of service in our military. 

Ken has served as the U.S. attorney for New Mexico since April 2010. His elevation to lead that office followed more than a decade of service there as an assistant U.S. attorney.

I’d like to highlight at least one of his many accomplishments that I find particularly important. I think Ken’s efforts as U.S. attorney demonstrate not only his character and his intellect, but the dedication he has to serving his home state and making it a better place for all of our residents. 

Much of New Mexico is Indian Country for which the U.S. attorney has responsibility to prosecute criminal activity. Ken has taken the initiative to reorganize and focus the U.S. attorney’s resources to more effectively combat the higher than average rates of violent crime, sexual assault, and sexual abuse that plague Indian Country. This includes creating the first Indian Country Crime Section within any U.S. Attorney Office. This section includes a team of lawyers responsible for pursuing felony offenses on Tribal Lands. The office is also collaborating with tribal prosecutors to investigate and prosecute domestic violence in more than 20 pueblos and tribes located within New Mexico. 

This is just one example of Ken’s work; but throughout his career, Ken has shown a dedication to serving the people of New Mexico. It is the sum of all of his efforts and accomplishments that make me believe he will make an outstanding addition to the federal bench. And I’m pleased that today we are at the final step toward getting him there.  

The process for getting to the federal bench is a long road to travel.  The Judiciary Committee leadership from both sides of the aisle takes seriously its responsibility to ensure every nominee is fit to serve.  I thank Senator Leahy and Senator Grassley for working together, and with Senator Udall and me, to get Ken through this process. As the vetting process surely showed, Ken has the knowledge, temperament, and integrity to serve on the federal bench.  

I have no doubt he will distinguish himself there, as he has throughout his legal career. 

I strongly support his nomination and I urge all my colleagues to do the same.  Thank you, I yield the floor.