WASHINGTON -- Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl, a federal prosecutor in North Dakota who has been nominated to a seat on a federal appeals court, faced a generally friendly reception when she appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Puhl, an assistant U.S. attorney in Fargo, appeared Tuesday, June 21, before the committee, presided over by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who congratulated her on her testimony.

“You did an excellent job and I look forward to moving you through the process,” said Graham at the close of the 45-minute hearing.

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven introduced Puhl, nominated by President Barack Obama to replace Judge Kermit Bye on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in St. Louis but also hears cases in St. Paul. Bye, who was nominated in 2000 and has his chambers in Fargo, has taken senior status, meaning he handles a reduced caseload.

Hoeven praised Puhl’s work as a prosecutor, where she has focused on crimes of child exploitation, and credited her with playing a “significant role” in forming a coalition among prosecutors, law enforcement officers and others to combat the rise in human trafficking.

He called the nominee “well suited” and asked the committee to recommend her nomination to the full Senate.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who closely follows federal judicial appointments, said Puhl’s hearing went well and her prospects appear favorable, though there are potential pitfalls.

“I thought she did very well,” he said, calling her demeanor thoughtful and measured. He noted she faced some difficult questions about enemy combatants and constitutional guidance on searches and seizures.

Hoeven’s support, because he’s in the majority party, is especially important, Tobias said.

“I think that’s critical to moving her through,” Tobias said of Hoeven. “He was very strong.”

Heitkamp also urged support for Puhl, adding that having a vacant seat on the 8th Circuit weakens the judiciary.

“I think she is eminently qualified,” Heitkamp said, citing Puhl’s relatively young age, her gender, and her life and professional experience.

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