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U.S. District Judge Gina Groh effects 'a fair shot'

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A judge who is prepared. A judge who keeps the docket rolling. A judge who is able to make the decision, but also not too hasty to rule from the bench.

That's newly minted U.S. District Judge Gina Groh's judicial philosophy in a nutshell.

Groh, a former Berkeley County circuit judge has been serving the federal post in West Virginia's Northern District since the U.S. Senate voted her into the lifelong position in March.

She told the Gazette-Mail last week ahead of her official investiture ceremony Friday afternoon that she wants to be known as a judge with a quick docket, but not quick enough to prevent the parties from "getting a fair shot."

"To give you the highlights," Groh said, "[I want to be] a judge who is prepared, who keeps the docket running, who does her research and treats the attorneys civilly."

Groh, a native of Williamsport, Md., graduated from Shepherd University in 1986 and from the West Virginia University College of Law in 1989. For most of the '90s, she bounced from firms Steptoe & Johnson, Washington, D.C.-based Mell, Brownell & Baker, and then to Semmes, Bowen & Semmes in Baltimore, doing a variety of civil litigation.

She entered the realm of criminal litigation in 1998, when she accepted a position as assistant prosecutor in Berkeley County. Many of her cases there involved child abuse and sexual assault.

"I decided I wanted to switch over to public service," she said. "You're helping to protect your community, it's a much different type of reward. I thoroughly enjoyed it."

In 2006, after lawmakers created a fifth seat in the 23rd Circuit, which encompasses Berkley County, then-Gov. Joe Manchin appointed Groh to the state judiciary.

 She held that post until March, following a lengthy and stressful vetting process that won another recommendation from now-Sen. Manchin, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., a White House interview and nomination from President Obama and a final Senate confirmation to the federal bench.

"The confirmation hearing," Groh said, "that was the day it all came together and I felt it was going to be tough and fair. You have to present well. Hopefully, you'll get a question you can answer in an intelligent way. Looking back, it was a wonderful experience.

"It's just a brief moment in time, so you hope that they ask you a question you can answer and your answer is well-received."

Groh said the confirmation process gave her the opportunity to get to know both West Virginia senators, but especially Rockefeller, whom she said called her home on some evenings to give her updates on her confirmation status.

"It takes a long time to get there," she said. "I was truly touched by the amount of attention and care they gave that.

Reach Zac Taylor at zachary.taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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