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Assistant U.S. Attorney Tena Campbell will likely be Utah's first female federal judge.

The White House has confirmed that President Clinton will likely nominate Campbell for the vacancy created when U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins took senior status at the first of the year.Campbell's name has been submitted to the FBI for the prerequisite background check prior to her formal nomination. The American Bar Association also typically confers a rating before the formal nomination and confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

The choice of Campbell was no surprise. Two of her former bosses - U.S. District Judge Dee Benson and former U.S. Attorney David Jordan - are close to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and lobbied for her appointment.

"Tena is one of the most outstanding prosecutors in the U.S. Justice Department," Jordan said. "She's tried dozens of jury trials. She's universally respected by the federal judges. She's extremely hard-working, tough when she needs to be and compassionate when it's appropriate."

Campbell was cautious about the announcement. "I'm not there yet, but I'm delighted to be as far along as I am," she said.

Federal judicial appointments are confirmed by the Senate, not the House.

Campbell has been a prosecutor with the U.S. attorney's office since October 1981. During that time, she has focused on the prosecution of white-collar crimes. In the past five years, she has been the office's financial-institution fraud attorney, a job she has held since the post was created.

Campbell would bring more courtroom advocacy experience to the bench than any recent Utah appointee. She currently argues roughly half a dozen cases a year and used to argue more in the days when most trials lasted two or three days, she said. "Now it seems they all go four, five, six, seven days, so I can't do as many."

She has tried more than 60 cases as a federal prosecutor. "That's more cases than most lawyers try in their entire career," Hatch said. "Tena will be fair, honest and knowledgeable."

Campbell teaches a course in trial advocacy as the Attorney General Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C., each year.

"I admire our federal bench. I've been practicing in these courts for almost 14 years. I feel very comfortable here. That's where I am every day. And the bench just feels very much like a place where I want to be," she said.

She is an Idaho native and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Idaho. She obtained a master's degree and a law degree from Arizona State University.

Prior to joining the U.S. attorney's office, she practiced privately for four years with the former firm of Johnson, Durham and Moxley and later, Fabian & Clendenin.

She is married to fellow assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Campbell. They have a daughter.