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Eastern Panhandle legal community memorializes former colleagues

October 21, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Reviving a traditional ceremony of tribute, members of the Eastern Panhandle legal community on Monday recognized the service of peers who passed away in recent years and introduced new attorneys to the area at what might have been the last circuit court proceeding at the old Berkeley County Courthouse.

"We are diminished by the passing of any one of us," Berkeley County Bar Association president Tracey A. Rohrbaugh said to a crowd of attorneys and family members in the building's second-floor courtroom.

With the 23rd Judicial Circuit's five judges seated behind her, Rohrbaugh read a memorial resolution that recognized the service of late circuit judges Vance E. Sencindiver and Gray Silver Jr., federal district judge W. Craig Broadwater and state Court of Claims judge Robert M. Steptoe, and more than a dozen members of the bar who practiced law in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties.

"We hope to be able to do this twice a year," Rohrbaugh said of Monday's ceremony, which marked the opening of the October term of circuit court in Berkeley County.

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Rohrbaugh said the passing of Sencindiver in May at age 85 prompted the renewal of the ceremony, which she said offers a time for the legal community to fraternize, memorialize and introduce new attorneys. One had not been held for several years, she said.

The members of the bar and bench remembered Monday had died since 1998.

Before sharing his memories of Sencindiver, attorney Clarence E. "CEM" Martin presented a commissioned portrait of the late judge at the gathering, which included federal district judge John Preston Bailey and former circuit judge Patrick Henry III.

Sencindiver, a circuit judge for 16 years and a prosecuting attorney for 20 more, was a "remarkable public servant," Martin said.

"He challenged our thinking," added attorney Charles F. Printz Jr.

Judge David H. Sanders said the painting eventually would be on display in a circuit courtroom at the Berkeley County Judicial Center, where portraits of other past circuit judges would be displayed. They were still on display Monday at the old courthouse courtroom, which has not been used for judicial proceedings for nearly two years.

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