WASHINGTON - Berks County's president judge has caught the eyes of President Barack Obama.
President Obama has nominated Judge Jeffrey Schmehl for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
"The process actually started in November and December of 2011 when they interviewed people in Philadelphia. I'd just remained hopeful throughout the whole process," said Schmehl.
After much anticipation, Schmehl said he got word Tuesday that he was one of the three people nominated out of 60 applicants.
"Jeffrey Schmehl's colleagues appointed him president judge of the Berks County Court of Common Pleas in 2008, a sign of his fitness for the bench," said U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who along with Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, recommended Schmehl for the post. "He has also helped veterans in need of legal assistance by working to establish a veterans court in Berks County."
Schmehl joined the Court of Common Pleas as a judge in 1998. He previously served as Berks County solicitor while working for the law firm of Rhoda, Stoudt & Bradley. He also served as an assistant district attorney from 1981 until 1986 and as an assistant public defender from 1980 until 1981.
President Obama also nominated Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro, a judge on the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, and Luis Felipe Restrepo, United States Magistrate judge, for seats on the federal court.
"These men and women have had distinguished legal careers, and I am honored to ask them to continue their work as judges on the federal bench," the president said. "They will serve the American people with integrity and an unwavering commitment to justice."
The nominations must be confirmed by a majority vote of the U.S. Senate.
"The federal courthouse in Reading needs another judge, and I look forward to having Judge Schmehl there in the near future," Toomey said.
Schmehl said he would fill the position once held by Judge Thomas Golden, who passed away in 2010.
"I'm humbled by the confidence that President Obama, Senator Toomey and Senator Casey have shown in me," said Schmehl.
"I'm confident that these individuals who Sen. Toomey and I have recommended and the White House has nominated will serve with the highest standards and discharge justice in a fair and impartial way," said Casey.
Nitza Quiñones Alejandro, a native of Puerto Rico, has served as a judge for the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas' criminal and civil trial divisions since 1991. She served as an arbitrator for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas from 1980 to 1991.
"In addition to her extensive experience in the courtroom, she has also remained active in her community through her work with schools and mentoring summer law interns," Toomey said.
Luis Felipe Restrepo, a native of Colombia, has served as a magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania since June 2006. He served as an assistant federal defender from 1990 to 1993 before entering private practice. He is a past president of the Hispanic Bar Association of Pennsylvania.
"He has also dedicated himself to giving back to the community through his involvement in the Police/Barrio Project and the Make-a-Wish Foundation," Toomey said.
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