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Remembering Judge Boone

A. Gordon Boone

A. Gordon Boone Jr.

Retired Baltimore County District Judge A. Gordon Boone Jr. died last month at age 83 but his memory lives on in Towson.

“Bigger then life physically, he was a character in every way,” writes Baltimore County Circuit Judge Robert E. Cahill Jr. in an email. “Always imposing with a handlebar mustache, he was known for a sharp, quick, sometimes bawdy wit and a great judicial incisiveness.

“His voice was booming and gravelly, reminiscent of Foghorn Leghorn or Yosemite Sam; more Virginia than Ruxton (which is where he in fact was raised),” Cahill says. “But he was honest to a fault – never afraid to speak candidly of his own weaknesses and frailties, in court or out. His decisions were articulated with a flair and panache.”

Cahill reached out to lawyers and judges, asking them to share their memories of Boone. Here’s a sampling of what they said.

Dan Trimble, assistant state’s attorney for Baltimore County:

The defendant had just pleaded guilty to displaying the tag of another and in mitigation explained that he had found the tag in an alley. Boone quickly spoke up: “I know that alley.”

“You do?” the defendant replied, surprised.

“Oh yes, of course,” Boone said. “That alley you found that tag in.”

“Yes sir, that same alley,” the defendant said, thinking he was getting somewhere. “Got the tag right there.”

“Oh yes, I know that alley,” Boone said. “Where you can find tags for your car. Or drugs for your habit. “Or stolen handguns. All kinds of things to just pick up. Oh, I know that alley.”

Classic Judge Boone, gently leading a defendant down the path to a biting realization that this judge was not getting the wool pulled over his eyes.

Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger:

Judge Boone to a first-time offender: “Young man, I am withholding a judgment of guilt and putting you on probation. Even though you do not have a record if you get in trouble again every judge will know you had a trip around this race track once….”

Retired Baltimore County District Judge Robert Steinberg

Judge Boone to the notorious Gunpowder River flasher who exposed himself to Goucher College art students drawing landscapes: “Sir, do you fancy yourself some sprite or cherub leaping from rock to rock for the enjoyment of these ladies? No sir, you are a gauche buffoon…”

Gordon loved his gin in a heavy crystal glass, and never in a “fern bar” with hanging plants where droppings might contaminate your beverage.

Marie Shapiro, Owings Mills lawyer

When I was a public defender giving mitigation, Judge Boone might say congenially “Son, do you have a job”

“Yes!”  my client would exclaim.

“What do you do?”

“I am a longshoreman (or plumber).”

“Make a good living, then?”

“I do OK.”

Suddenly, Judge Boone’s congenial manner would change: “Then why are you using the public defender? The public defender is for people who live in boxes!”

Retired Baltimore County Circuit Judge Thomas J. Bollinger

Many years after Judge Boone’s retirement, he was having dinner at my home with me and one of my sons. My son asked him “Judge Boone, I got a ticket a long time ago, and you won’t remember, but you were my judge.”

“Um hmm” said Judge Boone, looking over his glasses with a mouthful of veal.

When do your probations end?” my son asked.

“Never,” barked Judge Boone, without missing a beat.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley

I was representing a young man charged for the umpteenth time with knucklehead offenses –motor vehicle violations, narcotics possession, paraphernalia, fleeing and eluding. He was a good-looking kid from a hardworking family but drugs and drink, an overabundance of testosterone, underdevelopment of frontal lobe had him locked up even longer.

After trial and mitigation, before sentencing, Judge Boone asked in a grave baritone voice, “Son, tell me how it is —with all you had going for you — you could have fallen into the muck and mire of a habitual life of crime?”

My client replied with one hand raised to the sky: “I fell away from Jesus, your honor!”

“Put your hand down and don’t give me that Jesus crap,” Judge Boone bellowed. “I’m your only possible savior today, son.”

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