W.Va. judge could be confirmed to federal court next week

Jessica M. Karmasek Mar. 1, 2012, 1:15pm





WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - One legal observer says West Virginia judge Gina Groh's nomination to a federal court could be confirmed as early as next week.

Carl Tobias, the Williams Professor of Law at University of Richmond's law school, said it is possible Groh, who currently serves on the Twenty-Third Judicial Circuit, could be up for a vote Monday.

According to a list of nominations pending on the Senate calendar, as published by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, Tuesday, Groh's is the first name listed.

Groh was nominated by President Barack Obama to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia in May to fill the vacancy left by the 2006 death of Judge Craig Broadwater.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted in October to approve her to the federal court.

"By most relevant measures that the Senate has been using -- such as the date of her nomination and the date of the judiciary committee's approval -- it appears that Groh is the next district nominee whom the Senate will consider," Tobias said Wednesday.

"Monday is the day that most votes have been scheduled, so we'll see."

However, Tobias noted that Groh's confirmation hasn't yet been posted on the Senate's website.

He also pointed out that the Senate has skipped nominees, or not necessarily followed the order of voting -- that is, starting with the longest waiting nominee.

As far as appellate nominees, Tobias said it appears West Virginia attorney Stephanie Thacker's confirmation should be the next to get a vote.

Thacker was nominated by the president in September to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Thacker would replace Judge M. Blane Michael, who died earlier this year. Michael had held the position since 1993.

The Senate Judiciary Committee in November approved Thacker's nomination to the federal appeals court. However, like Groh, she must now be confirmed by the full Senate.

"The others are for the Ninth Circuit, which has four vacancies, but all have waited less time," Tobias explained.

"She should have a vote in March, and I assume that the West Virginia senators are pressing for that."

Last month, Joe Manchin, West Virginia's junior U.S. senator, criticized the Senate for holding up Groh's federal judgeship.

Manchin had dined with about a hundred fellow Democrats at the Peking Restaurant in Martinsburg. Groh was among those in the audience.

"Gina Groh will be your (federal) judge," Manchin said, pointing her out.

The once-popular governor said Groh's appointment, like many other judicial nominations, is on hold purely because of politics.

"It's hard to get anything done in this Congress," he said, adding that it's very much divided.

Leahy, who also serves as the judiciary committee's chairman, urged Senate Republicans this week to consent to considering more than a dozen judicial nominations that have yet to receive a confirmation vote.

"These highly qualified -- consensus -- nominees should be confirmed without further delay. They should have been confirmed last year," he said in a statement Tuesday.

"One hundred and thirty million Americans live in circuits or districts with a judicial vacancy that could be filled if Senate Republicans would consent to votes on these nominees. The delays are as damaging as they are inexplicable."

A total of 19 judicial nominations are pending on the Senate floor.

Fourteen of the nominations were reported to the full Senate by the judiciary committee in 2011, including a dozen nominations that received unanimous support from the 18 members of the committee.

"It is unacceptable for hardworking Americans seeking their day in court to find seats on one in 10 benches around the country vacant," Leahy said.

"When an injured plaintiff sues to help cover the cost of medical expenses, that plaintiff should not have to wait for years before a judge hears his or her case. When two small business owners disagree over a contract, they should not have to wait years for a court to resolve their dispute.

"We owe more to the people we represent than these senseless delays."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

More News