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Kelley ponders leaving bench

Walter D. Kelley Jr. is thinking about leaving the federal district bench less than four years after he was appointed to the court.

At a hearing in a patent case last week in Norfolk, Kelley told the attorneys before him that he has been offered a partnership in the Washington office of Jones Day. The remarks were in the context of a case scheduled for trial in April, and he mentioned that it might be the last case he presides over.

Asked today about the remarks, Kelley acknowledged that he had made them but would not elaborate on them. He said he has not written to the White House announcing his resignation and added that any comment before he does so would be premature.

A native of Norfolk and a graduate of Washington and Lee University and its law school, Kelley was nominated in October 2003 to the seat vacated by Judge Henry C. Morgan. The Senate confirmed him in June 2004, and he received his commission two months later.

At the time, he was a partner in the Norfolk office of Troutman Sanders LLP. He specialized in commercial litigation, with particular emphasis on intellectual property and antitrust cases.

As a judge, he has presided over dockets heavy on drug and firearm cases with relatively little in the way of the business disputes he handled as an attorney.

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