Report: Manchin criticizes Senate for holding up judicial nominations

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Feb 22, 2012




WASHINGTON - West Virginia's junior U.S. senator, Joe Manchin, last week criticized the Senate for holding up Berkeley Circuit Judge Gina Groh's federal judgeship.

On Friday, Manchin dined with about a hundred fellow Democrats at the Peking Restaurant in Martinsburg, according to the Herald-Mail.

Among those in the audience was Groh, the newspaper reported.

"Gina Groh will be your (federal) judge," Manchin said, pointing her out.

The once-popular governor said Groh's appointment, like many other judicial nominations, is on hold purely because of politics.

"It's hard to get anything done in this Congress," he said, adding that it's very much divided.

Manchin told the audience he and U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., are working hard to make sure Groh's confirmation gets through the Senate, and soon.

Groh was nominated by President Barack Obama to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia in May to fill the vacancy left by the 2006 death of Judge Craig Broadwater.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted in October to approve her to the federal court.

West Virginia attorney Stephanie Thacker's confirmation also is being held up.

Thacker was nominated by the president in September to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Thacker would replace Judge M. Blane Michael, who died earlier this year. Michael had held the position since 1993.

The Senate Judiciary Committee in November approved Thacker's nomination to the federal appeals court. However, like Groh, she must now be confirmed by the full Senate.

Carl Tobias, the Williams Professor of Law at University of Richmond's law school and a keen observer of the judicial nomination process, said last week that things are looking up for the two West Virginia judicial nominees.

He pointed to two recent confirmations as evidence: Cathy Ann Bencivengo to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California with a vote of 90-6, and Adalberto Jordan, of Florida, to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit with a vote of 94-5.

The Senate's action -- instead of lack thereof -- could mean the process will return to a more "normal" state of voting, Tobias said last week.

Though the timing still remains unclear, the law professor said Thacker would most likely be confirmed in March, but April is still a possibility.

As for Groh, Tobias said she could be up for a vote in March as well, or possibly later this month if things keep moving along.

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