Thacker one step closer to federal bench

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Nov 3, 2011



WASHINGTON - A University of Richmond law school professor says the full U.S. Senate should "promptly confirm" West Virginia attorney Stephanie Thacker's nomination to a federal appeals court.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved Thacker's nomination unanimously on a bipartisan voice vote after a hold over at an executive business meeting last month.

Thacker was officially nominated by President Barack Obama in September to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit after Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia's senior U.S. senator, recommended her nomination.

If approved, Thacker would replace Judge M. Blane Michael, who died earlier this year. Michael had held the position since 1993.

On Thursday, Rockefeller thanked members of the committee for supporting the Hamlin native's nomination.

"Ms. Thacker has everything I look for when I recommend judicial nominations and I'm so encouraged that the committee approved her nomination unanimously," he said in a statement.

"She has tremendous integrity, a brilliant understanding of the law and she cares deeply about our state and country."

Thacker now must be confirmed by the full Senate.

Carl Tobias, the Williams Professor of Law at University of Richmond's law school, noted Thursday that Thacker, currently a partner at the law firm of Guthrie & Thomas in Charleston, received unanimous approval "with no debate."

"Because she is highly qualified and not controversial and has the strong support of the West Virginia senators, the Senate should promptly confirm her," he said.

Joe Manchin, West Virginia's other senator, also has come out in support of Thacker's nomination to the court.

However, Tobias noted, the Senate has been slow to confirm Obama's circuit nominees.

"The Senate has confirmed only five this year, while five other nominees with Senate Judiciary Committee approval are ahead of Thacker -- one dating back to March," he explained.

Therefore, he said it is difficult to predict when exactly Thacker will receive a vote.

Last year, the Senate confirmed five circuit nominees in December, Tobias said.

That could be the case again this year, he said.

Once 2012 -- a presidential election year -- rolls around, things become more unpredictable, he said.

"The process traditionally slows and stops after the conventions," Tobias said. "The Senate certainly could confirm Thacker in early 2012."

He imagines both West Virginia senators will continue to press for a prompt vote.

"But Sen. (Mitch) McConnell must agree to that, and he has not agreed very readily to swift votes on circuit nominees," Tobias added.

In addition to her work at Guthrie & Thomas, Thacker also teaches as an adjunct professor at the West Virginia University School of Law.

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