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Irene Berger

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Irene Berger
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Current Court Information:
United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia
Title:   Judge
Position:   Seat #5
Station:   Beckley, WV
Appointed by:   Barack Obama
Approval vote:   96-0-4
Active:   11/09/2009 - Present
Preceded by:   David Faber
Past post:   West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, Circuit Judge of Kanawha County
Past term:   1994 - 2009
Personal History
Born:   1954
Undergraduate:   West Virginia U., B.A., 1976
Law School:   West Virginia U. Law, J.D., 1979

Irene Cornelia Berger is a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. She was nominated by President Obama in 2009. She is the first black judge to serve on a federal court in West Virginia.[1][2]

Early life and education

Berger received an undergraduate degree from West Virginia University in 1976 and a J.D. from West Virginia Law in 1979.[3][2]

Professional career

Judicial career

State judiciary

Berger was a judge for the Kanawha County Circuit Court in West Virginia following an appointment from Democratic Governor Caperton in 2004. She was the first black woman to serve on the Kanawha County Circuit Court.[5][2]

Southern District of West Virginia

Nomination Tracker
 Candidate:Irene Berger
 Court:Southern District of West Virginia
 Progress:Confirmed 111 days after nomination.
ApprovedANominated:July 8, 2009
ApprovedAABA Rating:Unanimously Well Qualified
ApprovedAHearing:September 9, 2009
ApprovedAReported:October 1, 2009 
ApprovedAConfirmed:October 27, 2009
 Vote: 97-0
Berger's Public Questionnaire Available Here

On the recommendation of Senators Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, Berger was nominated by President Barack Obama on July 8, 2009 to replace David Faber on the Southern District of West Virginia.[3] Berger also received an unanimous well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association.

Berger had a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 9, 2009, after which she was approved with unanimous consent.[1][4][6] Ranking Republican Committee Member Senator Jeff Sessions praised her qualifications and Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller called her "absolutely superb."[1][7]

On October 1, 2009, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to approve her nomination to a full Senate vote. Twenty six days later on October 27, 2009, Judge Berger was confirmed by the US Senate on a unopposed 96-0-4 vote.[1][8]

Notable cases

Unconstitutional redistricting map (2012)

     United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia (Jefferson County Commission et al v. Tennant et al, 2:11-cv-00989)

On January 3, 2012, a federal three-judge panel from the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia ruled West Virginia's congressional redistricting plan unconstitutional due its unequal distribution of population among the state’s three districts. The court gave the West Virginia Legislature until January 17 to come up with a new map -- otherwise, the panel would redraw the map. The State appealed the ruling to the US Supreme Court for a stay on the decision.

Supreme Court appeal

On January 20, 2012, the Supreme Court stayed the lower court's ruling requiring West Virginia lawmakers to redraw the state's congressional redistricting map. The order suggested that the court would be sympathetic to the state's defense in a full appeal. The order also allowed the state to move forward with the new maps for the 2012 elections. Prior to the ruling, several alternative plans had been considered in the state legislature.[9][10][11]

The state had until March 27 to file a brief with the Supreme Court or seek an extension on the stay. On March 27, the state filed a brief asking the court to hear the case. If the case did not go before the court, the lower court's ruling would have taken effect, and the maps would be redrawn.[12][13]

On September 25, 2012, the Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the lower federal court, upholding the new congressional districts as constitutional. In their eight-page ruling the Supreme Court stated somewhat unequal districts were permissible as the Legislature legitimately sought to avoid drawing incumbents into the same district while keeping counties intact.[14]

Judicial philosophy

Judicial empathy

In a 1991 interview with the Charleston Daily Mail, Berger talked about her support for judicial empathy. Despite her reputation as a tough prosecutor, she talked about her empathetic side as a prosecutor and as a judge. She stated: "People want to see people punished, and rightfully they should be. But on the other hand, you see people who didn't have a family support group and may be your age and they're going to the pen. You remember they are still human beings."[3]

See also

External links


Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
David Faber
Southern District of West Virginia
Seat #5
Succeeded by:

West VirginiaSupreme Court of Appeals of West VirginiaWest Virginia Circuit CourtsWest Virginia Family CourtsWest Virginia Magistrate CourtsWest Virginia Municipal CourtsUnited States District Court for the Northern District of West VirginiaUnited States District Court for the Southern District of West VirginiaUnited States bankruptcy court, Northern District of West VirginiaUnited States bankruptcy court, Southern District of West VirginiaUnited States Court of Appeals for the Fourth CircuitWest Virginia countiesWest Virginia judicial newsWest Virginia judicial electionsJudicial selection in West VirginiaWestVirginiaTemplate.jpg