Stephanie Thacker sworn in as 4th Circuit judge - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Stephanie Thacker sworn in as 4th Circuit judge

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A Lincoln County native and Charleston lawyer, Stephanie Dawn Thacker was sworn in May 29 as West Virginia's first woman appointed as 4th Circuit Court of Appeals judge.

"Wow," Thacker said as she approached the bench in the May 29 investiture ceremony. 

"I am still overwhelmed to be here. In fact, this morning when I received an email with news of judiciary from around the country, I saw a link that said federal judge sworn in today. I clicked on it to see who that was," Thacker said.

Thacker was nominated by President Barack Obama to fill the vacancy created in March 2011 by the death of 4th Circuit Judge M. Blane Michael. The U.S. Senate confirmed Thacker April 16.

She received commission April 17.

Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, both D-W.Va., backed Thacker.

"Judge Thacker came to this honor with an impressive breadth and depth of experience and a sophisticated appreciation for the humanity of every person who comes before the court," Rockefeller said in the ceremony. "She will apply the law with a grounded integrity, a brilliant mastery of the issues, and a true understanding of how judicial decisions impact real lives. I have complete optimism for the future with Judge Thacker on the bench of this powerful court."

Manchin, who also attended the ceremony, expressed his optimism for Thacker's future.

"I know what it's like to follow in the footsteps of giants," Manchin said. "I think you will do well."

Thacker earned her bachelor's degree in business administration from Marshall University and her law degree from the West Virginia University College of Law.

For 12 years, Thacker served as a federal prosecutor in the Department of Justice, where she became principal deputy chief of the department's child exploitation and obscenity section. She also served as a partner at the Charleston law firm Guthrie & Thomas.

Thacker recalled the phone call that changed her life as "the craziest thing" she had ever heard.

"I was sitting in the office and I got a phone call asking if I wanted my name placed on the list for Senator Rockefeller to look over to fill the vacancy on the 4th Circuit," she recalled. "Of course, I was flattered and honored, but I paused. I leaned back in my seat and took it all in. I took a deep breath and thought, ‘that's the craziest thing I've ever heard.' I never imagined I would be here today."

With Thacker's confirmation, the 4th Circuit now has a full complement of 15 judges for the first time since the court was expanded in 1990.

Before Thacker's confirmation, only eight West Virginians served on the 4th Circuit, 4th Circuit Judge Robert B. King explained. Out of those eight, King continued, only two were appointed without the approval of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd. 

"Stephanie Thacker is a wonderful addition to the court with her extraordinary skills, unparalleled intelligence and her sound judgment as a prosecutor and a lawyer."

U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin described Thacker as an "outstanding legal scholar" with a "stellar legal career."

"I am speaking for all U.S. District Court judges when I say we are each proud that you will be grading our papers," Goodwin said.

Former coworkers, David B Thomas and Susan Robinson, from Thomas Combs & Spann, also shared memories about Thacker.

Thomas remembered his experience with Thacker in a six-week civil trial. Although he said they lost the first time on all four verdicts, the case was resolved on appeal.

"I learned that if there's anyone you want to be in a foxhole with in tough times, it's Thacker," Thomas said. "If she didn't get appointed, we wanted her in the foxhole with us at our new firm, which would have been Thomas Combs Spann & Thacker."

Robinson described Thacker as "tough, a fighter and the most driven person" she has ever met. She also shared a joke about the "elusive Golden Horseshoe."

"Although you did not win that Golden Horseshoe, your name will be on that test for years to come," Robinson said.

Thacker thanked her family and friends, saying she would not be there today if not for her rural Lincoln County upbringing. 

"Lincoln County has a bad rap, but my view where I sit today is that I would not sitting here today if not for my Lincoln County family, Lincoln County friends and Lincoln County upbringing," she said. "Through that, I have learned many lessons … work hard, toughen up and grow through adversity."