BRYAN CLARK Spirit Staff
The U.S. Senate confirmed Judge Gina Marie Groh to a seat on the West Virginia Northern District Court in a 95-2 vote today, ending a six year vacancy on the bench.
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 coming days following an agreement between Republicans and Democrats that was announced yesterday.
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.
“It is a great appointment,” said Judge John Preston Bailey, chief judge of the Northern District Court. “We’re tickled to have her join the bench. 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.