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Martinsburg attorney running for judge

January 13, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - A Martinsburg attorney announced Saturday that he is seeking a judgeship in the Eastern Panhandle's 23rd Judicial Circuit.

Michael Santa Barbara, 48, said in a press release that he was seeking the Democratic Party's nomination to fill the vacancy created by Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr.

Steptoe, who was elected in 1984, will retire from the bench at the end of his term Dec. 31, 2008.

"The idea of public service has always appealed to me," Santa Barbara said in the release. "I have been very happy trying cases and representing my clients' interests, but I have always felt that there was something a little selfish about my efforts.

"If I am fortunate enough to be elected to the bench, I can combine my interest in public service and the even more noble idea of promoting the rule of law. The citizens of the tri-county area have a world class set of judges, and while we are losing a tremendous judicial talent through Judge Steptoe's retirement, I am personally excited by the prospect that I might be able to join the judges already here in the Eastern Panhandle, and work for the public good and the rule of law through that office."

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A graduate of Richmond College at the University of Richmond and the University of Richmond School of Law, Santa Barbara began his legal career in Martinsburg in 1990, practicing primarily in the areas of insurance defense law. More recently, he has concentrated his practice in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense and general civil litigation.

Republican state Sen. John Yoder, a former district court judge in Kansas, announced his candidacy for Steptoe's seat in November.

On Friday, Circuit Judge Gray Silver III of Martinsburg announced his candidacy for a second eight-year term in the 23rd Judicial Circuit. Silver defeated David A. Camilletti in the 2000 election.

Circuit Judges David H. Sanders of Summit Point, in Jefferson County, and Christopher C. Wilkes of Gerrardstown, in Berkeley County, also confirmed Friday they would seek new eight-year terms on the bench.

Sanders, a Democrat, and Wilkes, a Republican, first were elected in 1992.

Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh of Charles Town, who was appointed in 2006 to a newly created judgeship by Gov. Joe Manchin, filed precandidacy papers for election in November.

The 23rd Judicial Circuit comprises Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan counties.

The state's 66 circuit judges are paid $118,000 annually.

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