Howard S. Chasanow, former Judge of Maryland's Court of Appeals, and a former District Court and Circuit Court Judge in Prince Georges' County, Maryland, succumbed to injuries he suffered in a car accident and passed away on April 2, 2017. Judge Chasanow was one day shy of his eightieth birthday when he died.
In 1964 when I was in fourth grade, my family moved from a neighborhood near Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore City to Prince George's County. I attended a Prince George's County elementary school, junior high school and high school (High Pont) as well as a college situated in Prince George's County (U of MD, College Park). After I graduated from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 1985, I sought a highly desireable judicial clerkship in my home county's Circuit Court.
I had the good fortune of working with Judge Chasanow in 1985 when I interviewed with him for a judicial clerkship on the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland. Although Judge Chasanow informed me after my one hour interview that he could not hire me because he had committed to another law clerk, he told me he had another clerkship in mind for me, and that he would be calling on me to assist him once my clerkship began. Needless to say, I was confused after the interview, but my confusion cleared up after Judge Chasanow told me to call another Circuit Court judge. Judge Chasanow spoke to that judge before I called him and was granted an interview. A few days later, I interviewed with, and was offered a clerkship with The Honorable Robert H. Mason. Anyone who appeared before Judge Mason admired him temendously as I did. I was extremely fortunate to clerk for Judge Mason, for whom I have as much respect for as anyone I've ever met, but for whom I do not want to write another article about for many years to come. But today I pay my respects to Howard Chasanow. I admired Judge Chasanow in a way that few people have earned my respect and admiration.
Judge Chasanow served the citizens of Prince George's County as a prosecutor, District Court Judge, Circuit Court Judge, and Court of Appeals Judge. He served his country in the Air Force during the Vietnam war years. He was one of the most brilliant legal minds I have ever met. He was as humble as he was smart, although his intellect could overwhelm you during a legal argument.
He was compassionate and fair, and he was stern. I never arrived late in his courtroom, because I knew promptness was required in his courtroom, and I did not want to pay the fines he regularly assessed upon late arriving attorneys. He admistered justice in his courtroom the way he lived his life: with humility, and fairness, and with seriousness and compassion, and with a zeal for life. He was not just a great and wise judge, he was a caring and generous human being.
Back to the interview with Judge Chasanow, and my confusion at the end of the interview; on my first day working for Judge Mason I received a call from Judge Chasanow instructing me to come to his chambers during lunch. I did as ordered. I met with Judge Chasanow and his new law clerk, Laurie Eff and learned Judge Chasanow had selected me, at the end of that interview a few months earlier, to help him and his law clerk write a chambers manual for new law clerks. Judge Chasanow had attempted this project with his prior years' law clerks, but they had never completed it.
I was flattered and honored to be asked to contribute to this project. At the end of my clerkship, the manual was mostly completed, and we had done something the prior years' law clerks had not-we completed it I have a copy of that 32 year old manual, and use it in my office with new law clerks.
In his later years, Judge Chasanow became one of the most sought after mediators in the State of Maryland. He was the most effective mediator I ever appeared before, and he mediated to settlement one of my hardest wrongful death medical malpractice cases. He did it in a way that left my clients grateful for his assistance even though he persuaded them to accept less in settlement than they told me they would accept. He did it with grace and respect for all the parties.
He was brilliant, humble and wise, and he was gracious He was a role model to me, and I had the good fortune to tell him that shortly after he retired from the Court of Appeals at one of our Bar meetings. Many who knew him never got that opportunity, to express their gratitude to him for his friendship, or for his help, or for his wisdom in helping them resolve a dispute, or as in my case, helping me at the start of my career by demonstrating how a good lawyer and human being should act. He lived a good and decent life that this then young lawyer first admired him for, and that this old lawyer still holds up as the example to aspire to. I can't tell you how much I appreciated him from that first interview in 1985 to now, and how much I will miss him.
I urge readers to click the link above to read the Washington Post article about this great man, one of the greatest residents of Prince Georges County I ever met. One of my role models. I hope I live up to his standards.