THEIR VIEW: In praise of Judge Berger

By The West Virginia Record | Sep 16, 2009

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., recently provided the Senate Judiciary Committee with the following remarks on behalf of Judge Irene C. Berger, who has been nominated by President Obama to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on her nomination Sept. 9.


WASHINGTON -- I am delighted by President Obama's nomination of Judge Irene C. Berger's nomination for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, as she is an exceptional candidate.

I thank Chairman Leahy and the Judiciary Committee for the opportunity to provide some insight into her excellent judicial record and civic contributions, and look forward to her swift confirmation by the Senate.

Judge Berger, a native of Berwind, West Virginia, is testament to the drive and determination so characteristic of our Mountaineer spirit. The youngest of nine children, Irene Berger's family provided her with the strong foundation that helped her to excel.

Judge Berger's story is a story of firsts: she was the first in her family to attend college, and she was the first African-American woman to serve as a circuit judge in West Virginia.

Judge Berger has devoted her legal career to public service in West Virginia. After graduating from the West Virginia University College of Law, she worked as an attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Charleston.

Prior to serving on the bench, she served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia and in the office of the Prosecuting Attorney in Kanawha County for 12 years. As a prosecutor, she obtained dozens of convictions in many high-profile felony cases.

Judge Berger has served as a circuit judge for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of West Virginia for 15 years and has received a unanimous 'Well Qualified' rating by the American Bar Association. In addition to her duties on the bench, Judge Berger serves on the West Virginia Judicial Hearing Board, and has taught several Continuing Legal Education Courses.

From 1998 to 2004, Judge Berger chaired the West Virginia Symposium of Legal Services for the Poor.

Judge Berger is a pillar of her community and an exemplary jurist, and as a result of her years of service to the public and her community, she has been the recipient of numerous awards.

To name only a few, Judge Berger received the NAACP Image Award for Leadership in 2007; the Outstanding Alumna award by the West Virginia University Alumni Association in 2006. In 2004, she received the Distinguished West Virginian Award from Governor Bob Wise. In 2003, she was selected to be an American Bar Foundation Fellow, and won the Mountain State Bar Association Merit Award.

In 2002, Judge Berger was selected as a West Virginia State Bar Foundation Fellow and was named a West Virginian African-American Women of Distinction by the West Virginia Women's Commission.

Along with my colleague, Senator Rockefeller, I was proud to recommend Judge Berger for the seat on District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, and I am proud to introduce her today to the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Byrd is West Virginia's senior senator.

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