MARTINSBURG – Before she can design her own stationery with her work address on it, there’s something newly appointed 23rd Circuit Judge Gina Marie Groh needs — her work address.
Groh was appointed by Gov. Joe Manchin Dec. 15 to serve the 23rd, which covers Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties in the state’s Eastern Panhandle.
The state’s fastest-growing region, the Eastern Panhandle was given a fifth judge by the Legislature, and Groh is happy to have been chosen. However, considering there is no real extra room at the Jefferson and Berkeley courthouses and the Morgan courthouse burned down a few months ago, Groh is curious as to where her home base will be.
“We haven’t discussed my formal workload yet. It seems most likely that it will be Berkeley,” Groh said. “The most important item is getting an agenda and getting me signed up for the team, handing out my uniform and equipment and stuff.
“That’s more important than finding my home base because that really hasn’t been decided yet. I got a call from (the state Supreme Court) asking about getting my stationery ready. I need an address first.”
The new Berkeley County Judicial Center just opened, though Groh admits there is little extra room to accommodate her. However, additions are in the works.
“I don’t fear there will be a long-term place for me, but right now I need a short-term place to operate out of,” she said.
The situation certainly hasn’t affected Groh’s enthusiasm, which was one of the reasons she was hired, according to Manchin legal counsel Carte Goodwin.
“She’s young and energetic and will bring that type of vigor to the bench,” he said. “It should be noted that she’s but the third woman circuit judge in the entire state of West Virginia.”
Groh is actually the only current female circuit judge in the state outside of Charleston. Judges Jennifer Bailey Walker and Irene Berger hold court there.
“As much as anything, her poise and intelligence and extensive and varied experience attracted the Governor to make the appointment,” Goodwin said.
Groh grew up in Williamsport, Md., just across the Potomac River from Berkeley County. She graduated from Williamsport High School, then moved onto Shepherd University in Shepherdstown.
From there, she graduated from West Virginia University’s College of Law in 1989 and began her legal career at Steptoe and Johnson.
In 1995, she went to work for a firm in Baltimore before moving back to Berkeley County in 1998. In 2002, she became a Jefferson County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney.
Being in the Eastern Panhandle, she believes she’s had a few different experiences than prosecutors in the rest of the state.
“We have the different types of criminal cases. I mean everybody has the murder and robbery and bad checks, but as far as the drug crime it is really a significant amount in the panhandle because of the location of the interstates,” Groh said.
“We get a lot of runoff from the Baltimore and D.C. areas.”
Now a judge, she expects to see even more new cases brought before her and plans to start the third week in January. There are still a few cases she’s involved with in the Prosecuting Attorney’s office that she doesn’t want to abandon.
“It’s an opportunity to work hard and become a good role model,” Groh said.