Eastern Panhandle's newest circuit court judge sworn in

December 14, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • Michael D. Lorensen, left, is sworn in Friday by Chief Judge David H. Sanders. Judges John Yoder and Andrew Frye look on.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — Monday morning Michael D. Lorensen will step up to the bench to the call of “All Rise” for the first time.

Lorensen, 53, of Martinsburg, W.Va., the Eastern Panhandle’s newest circuit court judge, was sworn in Friday by 23rd Judicial Circuit Chief Judge David H. Sanders in Sanders’ Jefferson County courtroom.

The circuit covers Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties.

A public investiture ceremony will be held for Lorensen Jan. 10 in the Berkeley County Judicial Center before 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes.

Lorensen’s path to the bench began in 2010 when he lost a close general election bid to attorney John C. Yoder of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., who, like Lorensen, was running for the 23rd Judicial Circuit’s newly created fifth seat.

Lorensen’s second chance for a judgeship came in March when 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gina Groh’s appointment to the federal bench left a vacancy in the Panhandle.

Lorensen’s name was on a list of six area attorneys being considered for Groh’s replacement by Gov. Earl Ray Tomlin.

Tomlin announced Lorensen as his choice in November.

Lorensen has to run for re-election in 2014 to fill the last two years of Groh’s eight-year term. In 2016 he has to run for his own full term.

Lorensen has been practicing law at Bowles Rice LLP in Martinsburg for 25 years. When he came to the firm in 1987 it was known as Rice, Douglas and Shingleton, he said. Lorensen will be assigned juvenile and abuse and neglect cases as the circuit’s junior judge. He will also preside in Morgan County.

In recent weeks Lorensen has been shadowing Yoder and senior status Judge Andy Frye of the 21st Judicial Circuit (Grant, Tucker and Mineral counties) who has been filling in since Groh left.

“I’ve been learning a lot and I’ll be learning a lot more,” he said.”

He sees his job as “the most important work for our community, to be part of the process of helping citizens work through intractable problems and get on with life.”

Before moving to Martinsburg, Lorensen was a law clerk for U.S. District Judge Charles A. Haden in Parkersburg, W.Va., He serves on the West Virginia Board of Law Examiners and has been grading bar exams for more than 14 years.

He grew up in Morgantown, W.Va., in a family of lawyers. His father, Willard Lorensen, taught law at West Virginia University for 36 years, the last eight as law school dean.

Lorensen’s two brothers are attorneys.

Charles O. Lorensen is Cabinet Secretary of Revenue for the Tomblin Administration and Rick Lorensen, a former prosecutor and public defender in Greenbrier County, W.Va., is retired.

His sister, Linda Bierkamper of Morgantown, is a retired nurse.

Yoder and Frye witnessed Friday’s ceremony, as did more than 20 friends and supporters.

Among them were Lorensen’s wife, Maria Lorensen, director of development for Hospice of the Panhandle; his son, Wil Lorensen, 22, a staff member in the Washington, D.C. office of U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd.; and daughter Lauree, 17, a senior at St. Maria Goretti High School in Hagerstown.

Sanders also swore in Jefferson County Prosecutor Ralph Lorenzetti on Friday. Lorenzetti was re-elected to a second term in November.

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