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West Virginia Association for Justice names Charles Town man judge of the year

September 16, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • David H. Sanders, chief judge of the 23 Circuit, is congratulated by friends Ernest and Joan Johnston Friday after he was named West Virginia Judge of the Year by the West Virginia Association for Justice at a ceremony in Sanders chambers in Charles Town.
By Richard F. Belisle, Staff Writer

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — For the first time since it was founded in 1985, the West Virginia Association for Justice named an Eastern Panhandle jurist as its Judge of the Year.

David H. Sanders, chief judge of the 23 Circuit, which covers Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties, was presented with the honor Friday afternoon in his Jefferson County courtroom. About 50 people, including family members, friends, co-workers, members of the bar and local officials, attended the ceremony.

Martinsburg Attorney D. Michael Burke, a member of the association’s board of directors, presented a small plaque to Sanders, which read in part: “In recognition of his exemplary service to West Virginia’s court system and the rule of law.”

“For the life of me, I can’t think of what remarkable thing I may have done to merit this kind of attention,” Sanders told the audience. “I’ve always believed in modesty and I believe, as my father often pointed out, that I have much to be modest about. The Supreme Court of West Virginia has, through its opinions over the years, helped sustain me of that self-assurance. So I stand before you today feeling that I am a most unlikely candidate for this award.”

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Sanders, 65, of Charles Town, was elected to the bench in 1992 and is completing his 20th year in the 23rd Circuit.

Jim Bordas, a plaintiff lawyer in Wheeling, W.Va., is chairman of the association’s committee that selected Sanders for the award. The West Virginia Association for Justice consists of nearly 500 attorneys.

“Judge Sanders is one of the hardest working judges in West Virginia,” he said in prepared remarks. “He is respectful of all those who come before him in his courtroom. Members of the bar share that respect for him. His decisions are not based on public opinion or the opinion of lawyers ... but rather on the law and the evidence before him.”

Sanders, of Princeton, W.Va., said he grew up in a family of trial lawyers, including his father, brother and sister.

“I have tremendous respect for the role lawyers play in our society,” Sanders said. “Wrongdoers are made accountable by the fact that trial lawyers bring difficult cases and hold feet, even powerful feet, to the fire.

One of the things that makes our system great is that there are lawyers willing to take risks in the pursuit of justice.”

Burke said Sanders took a “circuitous route” on his way to a law degree from West Virginia University in 1982. He said Sanders began his quest for a bachelor’s degree by living, working and attending colleges in Maryland, New Hampshire, Washington state and Virginia.

Sanders said he was selling tacos off a truck in New Hampshire when he decided it was time to follow his family’s footsteps into law school.

His first job as a lawyer was in the Berkeley County Public Defender’s Office in Martinsburg, W.Va.

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