Gov. Jan Brewer hands judgeship to her top lawyer

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX (AP) -- Gov. Jan Brewer has appointed her top in-house lawyer as a superior court judge in Maricopa County.

The governor's announcement Friday that she appointed Joseph Sciarrotta Jr. as a judge comes less than four months before she leaves office. Sciarrotta expects to take the bench early next year.

Sciarrotta has been Brewer's general counsel since 2011 and advised her on proposed legislation, contracts and constitutional issues.

He also has defended her Medicaid expansion plan in court, and defended the governor when she made cuts to the program in 2011.

The Republican governor says the nonpartisan Maricopa County commission on trial court appointments unanimously recommended Sciarrotta.

Brewer praised him for helping the state through some of the most "economically and legally challenging" years in its history.

Sciarrotta began his legal career with the Phoenix law firm of Fennemore Craig where he represented clients regarding a variety of litigation matters. Subsequently, he became in-house counsel to several national Fortune 500 and 1,000 companies.

After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Michigan, Sciarrotta earned his law degree from Vanderbilt University School of Law.