WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that he has nominated Scott M. Matheson Jr. to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Matheson — a former U.S. attorney for Utah, gubernatorial candidate and University of Utah law school dean — is currently the Hugh B. Brown Presidential Endowed Chair at the U.'s S.J. Quinney College of Law.

The White House announced the nomination, stating that Matheson will replace Michael W. McConnell, who retired in August 2009, on the court that handles cases appealed from federal district court before they reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals handles cases from Utah, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming.

Matheson said he was "deeply honored" by the nomination and that he was "very appreciative to the president for this possibility to serve."

Numerous Matheson supporters, including the president, were more effusive in their praise.

"Scott Matheson is a distinguished candidate for the 10th Circuit court," Obama said. "Both his legal and academic credentials are impressive, and his commitment to judicial integrity is unwavering. I am honored to nominate this lifelong Utahn to the federal bench."

The nomination also was praised by Utah lawmakers, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who reiterated that Matheson's experience has prepared him well for the position.

"I'm pleased President Obama has nominated Scott Matheson to fill the vacancy on the 10th Circuit," Hatch said. "I've known Scott a long time, and he is a capable, bright attorney whose experience has prepared him for judicial service. The Matheson family has had a significant impact on Utah and can rightly be proud of Scott's nomination."

A Salt Lake native and graduate of East High, Matheson attended Stanford and Yale universities, as well as Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. Matheson ran as the Democratic candidate for governor but lost to Jon Huntsman Jr. in 2004. He is the son of former two-term governor Scott Matheson Sr. and brother of Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah.

Jim Matheson said the happiness he had at hearing the news was only surpassed by the notion that the people will be well-served.

"I am happy for my brother," Jim Matheson said. "But what I'm most pleased about is that the citizens who are served by the federal 10th Circuit court will gain a judge devoted to judicial integrity, fairness and knowledge of the law."

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, also offered his "warm congratulations" upon hearing the news and also praised the president for selecting Matheson, saying "Good choice, Mr. President. Good choice."

"I'm very pleased that President Obama selected Scott to serve as a judge on the federal bench," Chaffetz continued. "His distinguished scholarship as an attorney and law school dean, and his devoted public service to Utah and to the United States, make him an excellent nominee."

Matheson's mother, Norma, said she was "very pleased" by the news and said her son is someone who is "very involved."

"With the experience he has, he'll make a great judge," she said. "He's a real student of the law, but he's also an active participant. He's not an ivory tower-type person."

Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the U. called Matheson "a great choice" and said he "exemplifies" all of the qualities of a appellate judge.

"He's hardworking, brilliant and fair," Jowers said. "Most importantly, Scott has a history and a passion of delving deep into and having a passion for even the most mundane legal issues."

This story was reported from Salt Lake City.

e-mail: emorgan@desnews.com