Lorensen named to fill Eastern Panhandle circuit judge vacancy

Martinsburg attorney will succeed Groh, who was appointed U.S. district judge

November 16, 2012
  • Lorensen

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Martinsburg attorney Michael D. Lorensen has been appointed by West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to serve as a circuit judge in the 23rd Judicial Circuit, the governor’s office announced Friday.

Lorensen, 53, will fill the vacancy that was created earlier this year when Judge Gina M. Groh was appointed U.S. district judge for the Northern District of West Virginia in March.

“Judge Groh’s exceptional professionalism is well respected, and I believe Michael will continue her legacy at the 23rd Judicial Circuit,” Tomblin said in a news release. “Michael’s extensive legal and professional background as well as community service will serve the people of Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties well in his new role as judge.”

Lorensen’s appointment to the state trial court bench comes four years after he was defeated in the 2008 general election by 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge John C. Yoder for one of five seats in the three-county circuit. Circuit judges are elected to eight-year terms and are paid $126,000 annually, according to Secretary of State Natalie Tennant’s office.   

Groh’s eight-year term expires in 2016, but Lorensen will have to run for election in 2014 to complete the unexpired term, according to Tennant’s office.

“It’s very exciting,” Lorensen said of his appointment. “It’s obviously something that I’ve been hoping to do for a long time.”

Lorensen, who is a partner at Bowles Rice LLP in Martinsburg, has 28 years of experience in practicing law since earning his J.D. degree from West Virginia University in 1984.

Prior to law school, Lorensen studied journalism at West Virginia University, and for a short time, worked on weekends at the Dominion Post in Morgantown. 

“I didn’t get many bylines,” said Lorensen, who recalled compiling boxscore information for the newspaper’s high school sports coverage and writing short briefs about the games. Lorensen said he did write a few feature stories, including one about a Morgantown connection to the University of Georgia’s mascot, Uga.

“I wouldn’t called myself a pro, it was more of a foray,” Lorensen said of his work in journalism.

Lorensen’s legal experience includes serving as law clerk to the late federal Judge Charles Haden II in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

Lorensen currently serves on the West Virginia Judicial Hearing Board where he hears contested cases of judicial misconduct and submits recommendations to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

Lorensen said his experiences fed a continued interest in public service and becoming a judge.

Lorensen was among six attorneys interviewed for the appointment this summer, Tomblin’s office has said. The others were Nicholas F. Colvin, Kimberley D. Crockett, Laura V. Faircloth, Erin K. Reisenweber and Homer A. Speaker, according to Tomblin’s office. Crockett, Reisenweber and Lorensen were finalists for the judgeship.

Lorensen is the brother of Charleston attorney Charles O. Lorensen, who was appointed Cabinet Secretary of the state Department of Revenue by Tomblin in January 2011.

Lorensen resides in Martinsburg with his wife Maria. They have two children.

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