A Senate panel was told Wednesday that a Utahn nominated to become the first-ever Hispanic assistant U.S. attorney general is highly qualified and would serve with dignity.

Jimmy Gurule, a Salt Lake native nominated to become U.S. assistant attorney general for the Office of Justice Programs, appeared before a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.A vote by the committee on the nomination has not been scheduled.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a member of the committee, noted that Gurule is a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame and was an assistant attorney general in California for four years.

He was also a deputy Salt Lake County attorney from 1982 to 1985 and worked in the criminal division of the Department of Justice. Gurule received bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Utah.

"(Gurule) successfully combines his legal acumen with his commitment to the Hispanic community as the current president of the Hispanic National Bar Association," Hatch said.

Hatch added that Gurule "today makes history as the first Hispanic nominee to serve as a U.S. assistant attorney general, and who will serve our country with great dignity and respect."