WASHINGTON -– The United State Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed Irene Berger's appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
Berger, 54, had been appointed by President Obama in July to replace Judge David Faber on the federal bench. She was a Kanawha Circuit Judge.
Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., praised Berger after the 96-0 vote to confirm her.
"Along with my colleague Senator (Jay) Rockefeller, I was proud to recommend Judge Berger, for she is not only an outstanding jurist, she is also an exemplary person," Byrd said. "Berger has devoted her legal career to public service in West Virginia.
"As a young attorney, she provided legal services to those who are most needy. As a prosecutor, Judge Berger obtained many high-profile felony convictions. Judge Berger has served as a circuit judge for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of West Virginia for 15 years, and she has devoted countless hours of service to her community."
"Byrd noted how Berger has broken "barrier after barrier."
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," he said. "Embodying true Mountaineer spirit and pride, Judge Berger's contributions to legal service and education have been substantial. Sitting on the bench, she will continue her fine service to her community and to the great state of West Virginia.
"Let me be the first to compliment Judge Berger and thank my colleagues for their support."
Now, Gov. Joe Manchin must choose Berger's replacement on the Kanawha County bench.
Last week, the Governor's Advisory Committee on Judicial Nominations presented its recommended list of candidates to Manchin.
The seven-person list of potential replacements includes five women:
* Kathy A. Brown, Kathy Brown Law PLLC
* Phyllis H. Carter, Chief Administrative Law Judge of the West Virginia Human Rights Commission
* David J. Cecil, Barth & Thompson
* Katherine Louise Dooley, The Dooley Law Firm PLLC
* John G. Hackney Jr., solo practitioner and judge on the West Virginia State Court of Claims
* Joanna I. Tabit, Steptoe & Johnson PLLC
* Carrie Webster, Bucci, Bailey & Javins LC and chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee
A native of McDowell County, Berger first was appointed judge by then-Gov. Gaston Caperton in 1994 to replace a vacancy created by Judge John Hey. The appointment made her the first black female to serve on the bench.
Berger now will be the first black federal judge in West Virginia's history.
Also last week, Byrd and Rockefeller nominated Nick Casey, chairman of the state Democratic Party, to fill a vacancy on the bench in the U.S. Northern District of West Virginia that was created when Judge Craig Broadwater died in 2006.