Texas judge Priscilla Owen (search), the subject of a long and heated confirmation battle in the U.S. Senate, took the oath of office Monday for her new seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (search).

Owen, a justice on the Texas Supreme Court for more than a decade, won Senate confirmation to the federal post last month after a four-year fight over President Bush's push to place conservatives on the nation's highest courts. She became the first of Bush's long-blocked nominees to win approval under an agreement reached by centrists in the Senate.

"This has been a long road," Owen, 50, said after her swearing-in ceremony at the Texas Supreme Court chamber.

Owen was first nominated by Bush to the federal appeals court in May 2001. She continued to serve on Texas' highest civil court while awaiting confirmation.

Democrats argued that Owen allowed her political beliefs to color her rulings. They were particularly critical of her decisions in abortion cases involving teenagers.

But Republicans said those criticisms were politically motivated. They noted that she easily won election to the Texas Supreme Court in 1994 and re-election in 2000.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is based in New Orleans. It hears appeals from federal districts courts in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi.