CHARLESTON – President Barack Obama on Wednesday said he nominated Kanawha Circuit Judge Irene Berger to replace U.S. District Judge David Faber in West Virginia's Southern District.
Berger, 54, has been a circuit judge in Kanawha for the last 15 years, having first been appointed to replace Judge John Hey.
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Berger would be the first black judge to sit on the state's federal court.
Obama in a statement said Berger has "demonstrated the talent, expertise and fair-mindedness Americans expect and deserve from their judges.
Sens. Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, who had recommended Berger for the nomination, applauded Obama's pick.
"Judge Berger is absolutely incredible. Her historic nomination makes me so very proud. She has served Kanawha County strongly and honorably as circuit judge, and I know she will do the same for all West Virginians," Rockefeller said in a statement. "Her integrity, compassion and fairness are unmatched, and I am thrilled that President Obama has nominated her for this esteemed position."
Added Byrd, "Judge Berger's outstanding contributions to her community and state are evidence that she will be a role model for jurists statewide. Irene Berger has exhibited an impeccable dedication to fair and impartial justice for all, and it is the good fortune of all West Virginians to have her nominated for the federal bench."
A native of Berwind, McDowell County, Berger graduated from West Virginia University's College of Law in 1979. She was the first member of her family to go to college.
After law school, she went on to work as a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society of Charleston, the Kanawha prosecutor's office and the U.S. Attorney for Southern West Virginia.
She is the first black woman to serve as a state circuit judge. Former Gov. Gaston Caperton appointed her to the bench in 1994.
"She's a judge's judge," Kanawha Chief Circuit Judge James Stucky told The Associated Press. "I think it's a combination of her integrity and her honesty and her intelligence. She works hard at it, and she things hard before she makes a decision."
Should the U.S. Senate confirm Berger's nomination, Gov. Joe Manchin would be responsible for replacing her in Kanawha Circuit Court.