Groh appointed by President to federal bench

Judge Gina Marie Groh was appointed to a seat on the West Virginia Northern District Court by President Barack Obama on Tuesday, ending a six-year vacancy on the federal bench.

“It an honor, and it is also very exciting now that it is sinking in and becoming a reality,” said Groh, a Charles Town resident, soon after hearing of her nomination. “I think it is going to give me an opportunity to learn and grow and exercise my mind.”

Gina Groh

“I really appreciate it. I am honored by the President’s nomination, and I am so appreciative and honored that Sen. (Jay) Rockefeller had the confidence to recommend me and that Sen. (Joe) Manchin wholeheartedly supported Sen. Rockefeller’s recommendation.”

Groh also expressed thanks to the local community.

“I’ve had the support of this whole community, particularly since we haven’t had one of our own on the federal bench. It’s been a long time coming. It makes me appreciate it a lot more,” Groh said.

Groh will be the first female judge ever appointed to the Northern District Court.

“I hope my appointment serves as a role model for other young women who look to achieve in any field and particularly in the legal field,” Groh said. “(The appointment) expresses to young women and to minorities in general that you don’t have to be the stereotypical idea of who a judge is – an old, white-haired guy – to reach that level.”

Groh’s departure from the 23rd Judicial Circuit will leave a vacancy that will have to be filled by an appointment from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. Representatives from his office said it will likely be several months before potential candidates are vetted and a successor is appointed.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Groh to a seat on the West Virginia Northern District Court in a 95-2 vote last week.

Groh had been nominated for the seat by President Barack Obama in May, 2011, and was unanimously recommended for confirmation by the Senate Judiciary Committee. But her confirmation, along with that of several other nominated federal judges, had been held up in the Senate.

A previous nominee put forward by President George W. Bush was never passed through the Judiciary Committee.

The issue of stalled judicial nominees was beginning to draw the ire of the president and Senate Democrats. Earlier this week, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., threatened to use parliamentary procedures to force an up-or-down vote on the 17 nominees currently before the Senate. Some Republicans, in turn, threatened to use parliamentary procedures to force 30 hours of debate on each candidate before the vote.

Groh’s confirmation is the first of a series of 14 confirmations expected to occur in the coming days following an agreement announced recently between Republicans and Democrats.

The only votes against Groh’s confirmation came from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who have said they will vote to block all judicial nominees in retaliation for recess appointments made by Obama.

Judge John Preston Bailey, chief judge of the Northern District Court, called Groh a great appointment. “We’re tickled to have her join the bench,” he said. “We know she’s going to do a great job.”

The seat has been vacant since 2006, following the death of Judge Craig Broadwater. Bailey said it has taken hard work to keep up with the court’s docket with one judge short.

“The docket is current. I’ve been traveling to keep the docket current,” said Bailey, who lives and primarily presides in Wheeling but has to travel to hear cases in Martinsburg as well.

“I loved the people and the lawyers in Martinsburg, but it’s a four hours each way. It was difficult physically,” Bailey said.

There are currently 83 unfilled seats on federal benches throughout the country.

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