CHARLESTON -- M. Blane Michael, a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, died on Friday.
According to the Saturday Gazette-Mail, Michael passed after a long illness. He was 68.
Michael joined the court in 1993 after being nominated by President Bill Clinton to fill a seat vacated by James Marshall Sprouse.
The court is one of 13 federal appellate courts. It is located in Richmond, Va., and hears appeals from the Northern and Southern districts of West Virginia, among others.
Michael, born in 1943 in Charleston, S.C., and who grew up in Grant County, W.Va., received his bachelor's from West Virginia University in 1965 and graduated from New York University School of Law in 1968.
After law school, he worked as a private practice attorney in New York City from 1968 to 1971 before joining the U.S. Attorney's Office as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1971 to 1972.
He served as Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia in 1972.
Michael was a private practice attorney in Petersburg, W.Va., from 1973 to 1975 before serving as a law clerk to federal judge Robert Maxwell in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia from 1975 to 1976.
Michael then served as counsel to West Virginia Gov. Jay Rockefeller from 1977 to 1980 before resuming private practice work in Charleston, W.Va., from 1981 to 1993.
Rockefeller, in a statement over the weekend, called Michael a "longtime friend."
"There are certain times when words can't fully express our thoughts and feelings, and there are certain people whom words can't adequately describe. Today is, sadly, one of those times, and Blane Michael is certainly one of those people," he said.
"Unvarnished in his honesty, uncanny in his humor and unequaled in his humility, Blane was a formidable presence on the federal bench, with a moral and intellectual compass set hard for justice. He was a brilliant judge who never took for granted the power and the responsibility of deciding the cases that impacted people's lives or righted serious wrongs.
"I will be forever fortunate to call him my dearest friend and confidant -- the kind you just trust to his very core and whose deep, easy companionship abides with you for a lifetime.
Rockefeller added, "My thoughts and prayers are with Blane's glorious wife, Mary Anne, and their cherished daughter, Cora. The Michaels' devotion to each other, to friends and neighbors, and to active public service embody what it means to be a West Virginian, and they allowed Sharon and me the great gift of feeling like part of their family. We have all lost a truly great man today."
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, for the Southern District of West Virginia, called Michael "one of the finest judges and finest men I have ever known."
"He graced the bench with wisdom, integrity and devotion to justice seldom equaled in our country's history," Goodwin said in a statement.
"Though renowned throughout the American bar, Judge Michael always remained a proud son of Grant County, West Virginia; his profound decency and sincere warmth earned the respect and the deep affection of all who met him. With his passing, we have lost a giant of the law."
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also released a statement after learning of Michael's passing, calling him "a dear friend."
"For the service he has given, the passing of the honorable Judge Blane Michael is a loss to the state of West Virginia and to the entire United States," he said. "He was a dear friend to me and my family for many, many years. He was someone who always had a smile on his face, and he put one on yours, too.
Michael is survived by his wife, Mary Anne; his daughter, Cora, and her husband, Inti Einhorn.