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An Active Retirement for Thieme

[IMGCAP(1)]Friends and associates of Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr., who retired yesterday after serving four years on the Court of Special Appeals, said they’ll miss the judge — that is, if he ever leaves.That’s because Thieme, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 today, isn’t going anywhere. He’ll continue to serve as a retired, specially assigned judge on the state’s second-highest court.Thieme’s is the second of three retirements this fall and winter on the busy 13-judge court that hears more than 2,000 cases a year. Judge William W. Wenner stepped down in September and Judge Charles E. Moylan Jr. will retire in December.So there’s plenty of work to go around.“You have three vacancies on the court and there is no indication when the governor will make any appointments,” Thieme said. “So I anticipate sitting on the court full-time.”Anyway, the judge said, retirement isn’t a very attractive option. “Why should I want to give up something I enjoy and, what? Watch daytime TV?” he quipped.Thieme’s decision to keep working is just fine with the intermediate appeals court’s top judge.“I’m delighted he wants to continue serving on the court,” said Chief Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr., who has known Thieme for nearly 30 years. “He has a brilliant legal mind and gets right to the issues.”Murphy recalled when he was an attorney in private practice and appeared before Thieme, then a judge in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. “He was a pleasure to appear before,” Murphy said. “And he was every bit as effective as an appellate judge.”Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge J. Clayton Greene Jr., who succeeded Thieme as administrative circuit judge when he joined the Court of Special Appeals, called him “a great judge and a very bright and compassionate human being.“He’s the type of judge who fairly and squarely confronts the issues presented,” Greene continued. “In other words, he doesn’t dodge the big issues.”Retired Court of Appeals Judge Lawrence F. Rodowsky, a classmate of Thieme’s through high school, college and law school, praised his long-time friend and judicial colleague.“Ray is one of the outstanding intellects in the Maryland judiciary,” said Rodowsky, who stepped down earlier this month. “I have a great respect for Ray.”Rodowsky recalled his favorite Thieme story.“When Ray was a district court judge in Anne Arundel County, Bob Sweeney [the late chief judge of the Court of Appeals] had an English judge with him who was very high up in the English judiciary,” Rodowsky recalled. “Judge Sweeney was showing the guy around the district court and they went into Ray’s chambers.”It was between dockets, and Thieme was sitting at his desk reading a book — written in classical Greek.“So Sweeney looks at the English judge and said, ‘See the caliber of judges we have working here?’” Rodowsky said, chuckling. “Ray’s a talented guy.”Thieme was born in Baltimore and graduated from Loyola College in 1952. He earned a J.D. at the University of Maryland School of Law in 1956 and was admitted to the Maryland bar the same year.After a stint in private practice, he served as an assistant state’s attorney and deputy state’s attorney in Anne Arundel County from 1967 to 1970, when he was elected state’s attorney. Thieme was appointed to the district court in 1973 and joined the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in 1977.In 1994, Thieme presided at one of his highest profile cases when Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey challenged Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s victory in the 1994 gubernatorial race by a slim margin of 5,993 votes. Thieme, who said he voted for Sauerbrey, rejected the challenge, ruling the Republican’s case was flawed.“The Sauerbrey suit showed the confidence [Chief Judge] Murphy had not just in Thieme’s ability, but the acceptance his decision would have in the legal community,” said William L. Reynolds II, a law professor at the University of Maryland and an expert on Maryland’s judiciary. “He’s a good guy.”So good that Glendening appointed him to the appeals court two years later.“Judge Thieme is a very cerebral and widely read person who is at home with philosophy as well as the law,” Reynolds noted. “He brings to his work an understanding not just of the law but the wider society in which the law operates.”Thieme’s opinions often showed the range of his intellect, such as one written last June that wrapped up the convoluted saga of the financial and legal issues that plagued the sale of Ocean City’s famed Carousel Hotel & Resort.In his opinion, which upheld the foreclosure sale to the high-rise resort’s condominium owners, Thieme chided the appellant’s “hyper-technical reading of the law” — but added, “This court is not beguiled by smoke and mirrors.”The lengthy opinion closed on a note of pique … and literary flair:“To our knowledge, the property in question has been the subject of no less than five separate actions in Maryland and federal courts. The parties have appeared before this court two times in as many years.“We trust that, with the instant appeal resolved and the property in the hands of its new owner, the rosy-fingered dawn will now appear,” Thieme concluded — borrowing a phrase by the Greek poet Homer.