CHARLESTON -- Gov. Joe Manchin has appointed David M. Sanders to fill the vacancy in West Virginia's 15th Family Court Circuit.

The opening was left in February by the appointment of Joseph C. Pomponio Jr. to the 11th Judicial Circuit. The 15th Family Court Circuit covers Greenbrier and Monroe counties. Sanders' term expires Dec. 31, 2008. Pomponio has been covering the family court docket in addition to his circuit court duties

"Judge Sanders has the education, experience and compassion necessary for this demanding role," Manchin said in a May 8 news release. "I'm confident he will fairly represent the best interests of children and families in Greenbrier and Monroe counties."

Chief Justice Robin Jean Davis also praised Sanders, saying the state Supreme Court justices "look forward to working with Judge Sanders."

Sanders, 59, said he is happy to have the opportunity.

"I thank the governor for giving me the opportunity to continue to provide services to the people of Greenbrier and Monroe counties," he said.

Sanders most recently was supervising attorney at Legal Aid of West Virginia, where he oversaw staff and attorneys who provide legal representation for clients that cannot afford to hire lawyers. He was an attorney at the firm of Jacobs & Chandler and at West Virginia Legal Services Plan, both in Parkersburg, before joining Legal Aid in 1990.

Sanders obtained a bachelor's degree in special education, with a focus on helping children with mental retardation and autism, from Marshall University in 1978 and a master's degree in industrial safety from Marshall University in 1980. He also served in the U.S. Navy from 1968 to 1972, where he played wind instruments in a Navy Band. He then worked as a crane operator at Armco Steel Corp. in Ashland, Ky., for 17 years.

Family court judges hear cases involving divorce, annulment, separate maintenance, paternity, grandparent visitation, and issues involving allocation of parental responsibility and family support proceedings, except those incidental to child abuse and neglect proceedings. Family court judges also hold final hearings in domestic violence civil proceedings.

There are 35 family court judges who serve 26 family court circuits. Family court judges were elected in partisan elections for the first time in 2002. Their initial terms are for six years. Subsequent terms will be for eight years. Beginning in 2009, there will be 45 family court judges.

Sanders was to attend the spring Family Court Conference in Charleston earlier this month, and he then planned to take the oath of office on May 17 in Lewisburg. Pomponio will deliver the oath and conduct the ceremony.

Sanders' term expires Dec. 31, 2008. He will seek election to the office.

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