Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Frank Volk on Wednesday only had to answer a few questions from U.S. Senators during a hearing for federal judicial nominations in before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.
Volk was one of six nominees who answered questions from senators during the hearing Wednesday morning in Washington, D.C.
President Donald Trump nominated Volk to serve as a judge in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, filling the vacancy left by Senior U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver, who transitioned into senior status last fall.
During his opening statement to the committee, chaired by Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., Volk thanked his family and Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., for their support, and he noted that his grandparents immigrated to the United States from Italy about 100 years ago.
“This great country is the only one in which just 100 years later I can be nominated to a position like this as a result of their hard work and dedication,” Volk said. “They all loved this country.”
Volk has presided as a bankruptcy court judge in the Southern District of West Virginia since 2015. His current office is based in the Robert C. Byrd United States Courthouse, in Charleston.
Volk answered questions in a panel alongside Michigan Attorney Michael Bogren, U.S. Magistrate Stephanie Dawkins Davis, Texas Attorney Jason Pulliam, and Kentucky Circuit Judge David Austin Tapp, all of whom are nominees for federal judicial positions.
Tapp and Bogren received the brunt of the direct questioning during the hearing.
Prior to the panel questioning, Daniel Aaron Bess answered questions from the committee for a position as a United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit, which includes nine states in the western United States and two U.S. territories.
Volk previously worked as a law clerk for Copenhaver, who was appointed to the bench by President Gerald Ford, a point noted by Volk, Manchin and Capito in their statements Wednesday.
Volk grew up in Morgantown, and he earned a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University, and a law degree from WVU’s College of Law.
In college, Volk worked as the editor in chief of the West Virginia Law Review, according to Capito’s release.
In addition to his work in federal court, Volk taught classes in federal civil rights and bankruptcy at the WVU law school for more than 10 years.
“Even with all those accolades Frank knows and understand the value of hard work,” Manchin said. “West Virginia and the federal bench need judges who are thoughtful hardworking and exhibit a high level of intellect. Frank fits that role perfectly.”
When asked by Graham what made him most prepared for being a federal district judge, Volk said his experience working with “two lions” of federal court, Copenhaver and the late chief U.S. district judge Charles H. Haden, gave him a perspective that would benefit him on the federal bench.
“He’s taught me so much about judging, being a lawyer and life in general,” Volk said of Copenhaver.
Under questioning from Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Volk said he believed the U.S. Supreme Court correctly decided the case of Brown. vs. Board of Education in 1954. In that case, U.S. Supreme Court justices ruled that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional.
Volk also said it would require complicated testimony and examination to rule in a case involving solitary confinement, when Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., asked how he would analyze such a case.
Carl Tobias is the Williams Chair in Law at the University of Richmond School of Law. Federal judicial selection is among his areas of study, and he said Volk was in great shape after the hearing.
“Judge Volk did very well in the hearing,” Tobias said. “Both West Virginia senators were glowing with their praise in introducing him, and of course Judge Copenhaver, with whom Volk worked and will replace, is a legendary figure in [the Southern District of Wets Virginia]. As I have said before, Volk is well qualified and has much relevant federal court experience. Most of the time and firepower was spent on Bress for the 9th Circuit and two other district nominees who were controversial, so that made it easier for Volk.”