In both the Circuit and District Courts, the ghosts of departed jurists grace the walls via pictures and portraits. It is an unwritten tradition to memorialize every judge who has sat on the respective benches, via either a picture or portrait hanging somewhere on the courthouse walls. The nature of painting vs. picture speaks loudly about the difference of the aura and image of the two trial courts.
In the Circuit Court, a more costly tradition honors deceased judges by paintings which are rendered by an artist, after the jurist has passed away. There is no hard and fast rule in this regard, as at times in the past, a jurist has retired but still breathes the air of this good earth. That is, occasionally those judges have appeared on the walls, having retired but were not as yet pushing daisies out of the ground. There were patrons who sponsored early immortality by paying for the painting. Actually, all of the portraits were sponsored by private donations, although it is usually after the departure of the judge. And usually it is the family of the judge who paid for the painting at the urging of the Bar Association.
But there is a resource which apparently has never been tapped for this procedure. It is the Bar Foundation, which heretofore has used its funds primarily for the restoration of courtrooms and facilities, and for educational projects. The most prominent contribution and the genesis for its founding was the restoration of the historic Olde Courtroom Number Five. Judge Tom Bollinger was recently appointed by Bar Association president, T Wray McCurdy, to head a committee to see that the likenesses of six departed Circuit Court judges, who have not yet had their portraits hanging, are replicated and placed on the walls of the Circuit Court. Those judges, who as yet have not appeared on the hallowed walls, are Anne Brobst, Bill Hinkle, Len Jacobsen, Bill Brannan, Bob Cadigan and Bucky Buchanan.
Judge Bollinger has appointed Judge John Turnbull, John Nowicki, and yours truly, as Historical Committee Chairman, to be a part of his committee. We convened recently and met with a young artist, Kathleen Meredith, whose dad is Baltimore County attorney, George Meredith. Katie, as she prefers to be called, is an experienced artist and teacher with a great resume. She has already done the portrait of Judge Al Brennan. It is excellent. We agreed on a very fair price. All we need is the money. Each painting will be $4100, which includes a tasteful frame. There have been paintings done in the past which cost as much as $10,000.
When Katie has finished her magic brush strokes, all that remains is to hang the picture. The Committee seized on the idea of approaching the well- endowed Bar Foundation. Its President is always the past, past president of the County Bar. In this case, Bob Lazzaro is the twice past president who heads the Foundation.. Bob has given his verbal acquiescence. He needs to run it past his committee, which meets on October 16. Our committee and Katie are standing by, with hands out awaiting the arrival of a retainer check.
Meanwhile, the aforesaid recourse does not preclude Bar members, friends and relatives of the departed to donate to this cause. The amount is totally tax deductible. If any members are so inclined, please forward your donation to the Bar Association, marked for use in Court Portraits. So as the year ends, any cash flush members looking for a charity to hide their fortunate surplus, should look to the Foundation.
District Court, by its very nature, is a simpler and more economic court. Pleadings are simpler, time deadlines are shorter, and costs are less. And for the sake of immortality, here’s a District Court bonus: District Judges needn’t wait for their estates to be opened, to be memorialized. All of us, upon our swearing in, were rewarded with an 8 x 10 black and white photograph, very fashionably ensconced in a top rung Wal-Mart classic frame. The pictures are hanging in the interior hall of the first floor of the Towson District Court. This tradition was begun by legendary jurist, John Carroll Coolahan, the Lion of Halethorpe. The pictures date back to the inception of the District court in 1972.
Regretfully, since John passed away, the tradition has stalled. The present bench is looking for a new champion to continue the wonderful and much appreciated practice. Perhaps they too should look to the Bar Foundation for help. This project is a discount procedure as compared to the works on the walls of the County Courts Building and Courtroom Number Five. This is one of the myriad of reasons that the District Court is often called “Disco” court. It’s also called “Disco” because of the expeditious manner cases are placed in for trial.
In the Circuit Court it is a slow waltz as opposed to a quick disco dance of the District Court. It’s like waiting for the circus to come to town, thus “Circus” court, for the Circuit Court. But the judges of the higher court are $10,000 a year smarter. If all the Circuit judges were in one room they would be almost as smart as Bob Steinberg alone. Kidding of course. That was a literary deviation to say “goodbye Bob. You were truly wise, fair, kind and a consummate gentleman.” Although you are still around as a sitting, retired judge, your black and white photo in the Towson District Court will be there long after we’ve passed to our heavenly chambers. It looks great. You and I are happy to be there in black and white, and would be embarrassed by an artist’s rendition.
Again, if any Bar members had a particular affection for one or more or all of the Circuit Court judges , who do not have their portraits on the wall, please send a donation to remedy this unfortunate omission. Remember, it is totally tax deductible.