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Judge Dorf, former senator, dies at 86

Former circuit court judge and state senator Paul A. Dorf died Thursday night. He was 86.

Around the office, the other lawyers always called Paul A. Dorf ‘Judge.’

Dorf, who was a partner at Adelberg, Rudow, Dorf & Hendler LLC, was an associate judge of the Baltimore City Circuit Court for 15 years and served in the state Senate for eight years. The firm said Dorf died after a short illness.

“[Dorf] was diligent in trying to ascertain the facts,” said Jerald B. Lurie, a partner at the firm. “He was a student of the law. He would try to find out, obviously, what the law said in similar circumstances, and he was upfront with clients. For someone who had achieved a lot in his legal career and his political career, there were no pretenses. He was easily approachable.”

Dorf was born in Baltimore and completed a naval air cadet program at The University of Iowa before serving in the armed forces. He obtained an undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland and received his law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law.

He served as assistant city solicitor of Baltimore from 1951 to 1958, then as chief judge of the Baltimore City Traffic Court for about a year before being elected state senator.

Dorf represented District 11 in the state Senate from 1960 to 1968, then was appointed to the circuit court. He joined Adelberg as a name partner in 1983 and handled family law cases, litigation and alternative dispute resolution.

Dorf was also very involved in ADR organizations and conducted private arbitrations in civil and domestic disputes.

Oren D. Saltzman, managing partner at the firm, first met Dorf in 1979. While Saltzman was in college, he worked as a doorman in Dorf’s building. The two later worked together at the firm.

“He was very even-tempered,” Saltzman said. “When he had an opinion to express, he would express it. I enjoyed listening to his stories. He always had a smile on his face.”

Saltzman said he remembered Dorf advocating to quickly choose a new managing partner at the firm when the previous one stepped down this year. Saltzman said Dorf gave a rousing speech.

“He was a kind, honest, fair person,” Saltzman said. “He never had a bad thing to say about anyone. If he did, I never heard it.”

Attorneys around the office always called him “Judge,” Lurie said.

“It’s like once you’re president of the United States, you are always ‘President,’” Lurie said

Lurie also said Dorf spent a lot of time mentoring young attorneys at the firm.

“He was a real gentleman,” Lurie said. “He was always willing to take the time to mentor young attorneys and share his decades’ worth of knowledge with others. He was teacher, a mentor and a first-rate practitioner who understood the rules of civility and treated opposing counsel with decency.”

Dorf is survived by his wife, Helene Penn Dorf; two children, Cynthia Dorf Kleiman and James Howard Dorf; siblings Miriam Dorf and Stanley and Millie Dorf; and six grandchildren. Dorf’s first wife of 50 years, Rhona Dorf, died in 2008, and another daughter, Jayme Dorf Weinstein, died in 2004.

As of Friday, services were scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 8, at Sol Levinson & Bros. Inc in Pikesville. Interment will follow the service at Beth Tfiloh Cemetery at 5800 Windsor Mill Rd. in Woodlawn. The family will also be mourning 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday at 10 E. Lee St., No. 2600 in Baltimore.

The family has said that donations in Dorf’s memory may be sent to the American Cancer Society at 8219 Town Center Dr., Baltimore 21236.