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Judiciary Committee approves controversial nominee for Utah’s federal court

Along party lines and amid divisive arguments, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced a judicial nominee for Utah’s federal court.

All of the panel’s Republicans supported, and all Democrats opposed, Howard Nielson Jr.‘s nomination, which has come under fire for his past legal work against same-sex marriage in California and for a memo he authored arguing that the Geneva Convention only protected civilians in enemy custody held on U.S. territory, not abroad.

The vote was 11-10, and Nielson’s nomination now goes before the full Senate.

Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., said that during Nielson’s confirmation hearing two weeks ago, he declined to say whether he agreed with different memos – which he did not write – that waterboarding and sleep deprivation were legal interrogation techniques.

“This seriously concerns me,” Feinstein said. “These memos were a black eye on the Department of Justice and our country for years.”