Gov. Norm Bangerter announced Wednesday his appointment of assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Nelson Cooke to the state Board of Pardons.

Bangerter made the appointment to fill the remaining 13 months of the unexpired term of Victoria Palacios, who resigned in July to take a professorship at the University of Notre Dame School of Law.Cooke, 31, holds undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Utah and has been a federal criminal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney's office for the past three years. She spent the year before that as a clerk for Federal District Judge David K. Winder. She worked as a photojournalist for the Salt Lake Tribune before entering the legal profession.

"I'm pleased that Heather Cooke has accepted this appointment. In my opinion she will be a tremendous asset as a member of the Utah Board of Pardons. Her background and experience will be invaluable," Bangerter said.

The appointment is contingent on confirmation by the state Senate, which could come as early as mid-December.

Cooke, a Salt Lake native, said her "multifaceted perspective" on corrections bring a valuable dimension to the full-time, five-member corrections board.

She began working as a volunteer community liaison coordinator at the prison after graduating from high school, an activity she said she pursued off and on for about 10 years. While going to law school, Cooke said she headed a volunteer tutoring program at the prison's young adult facility and spent two summers while in law school working at the prison.