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Judge Pomrenke case entering rare legal territory

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BRISTOL, Va. - With ethics and contempt of court complaints pending, Bristol Judge Kurt Pomrenke is still presiding over Juvenile and Domestic Relation Courts. These types of complaints are rare against a sitting judge. Judge Pomrenke was appointed unanimously by the General Assembly to assume the position in the 28th district in 2013. State Senator Bill Carrico took part in the vote. "He had a long career as an attorney and was respected by a lot of his peers and there was no reason that we had to not support him as a Juvenile and Domestic judge," Carrico said. Pomrenke is now accused of official misconduct by the Virginia Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission, based on evidence he tamped with witnesses at the BVU corruption trial of his wife. The commission is seeking to have Pomrenke removed, force him to retire, or be censured. "The canons of judicial ethics are nothing more than rules that apply to judges. The fundamental underlayment of all of these canons are that a judge cannot use the power of his office to gain an advantage that a private citizen would not be able to gain," said longtime Southwest Virginia attorney Gerald Gray. Gray said he cannot remember a similar case. "I'm not aware of any case in the 44 years that I've practiced law in which a judge has spoken with witnesses or potential witnesses or have sent letters to them and included his judicial card in an obvious effort to sway their opinion. I think this is precedent-setting for our region, and perhaps the entire state," Gray said. Carrico also said this is the first time in his 16 years in the state legislature that the commission has recommended removal from the bench. "I understand and respect the fact that this is his wife he was trying to protect, but as a judge you're held to a little bit of a higher standard than most," he said. In a statement, Pomrenke's attorney stresses he has cooperated with the state commission and his actions were personal, not related to his court cases. Pomrenke's appointment expires in 2019. The misconduct complaint is expected to be heard by the Supreme Court in October. A hearing has not been set on the contempt of court motion in federal court in Abingdon.

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