Jacqueline E. Dawson, who served as a family magistrate for Baltimore County Circuit Court for two decades and earned a reputation as an outspoken advocate and a dedicated member of the women’s Bar, died Thursday of ovarian cancer. She was 64.
Dawson, a Baltimore native, graduated from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 1977. She then built a domestic and criminal law practice and later moved on to work as an assistant public defender in Baltimore County.
She was then appointed to the position of master, or magistrate, in Baltimore County Circuit Court, where she served for the past two decades, handling juvenile and domestic relations cases.
“Competent doesn’t do her justice,” said Leonard Shapiro of the Law Offices of Leonard H. Shapiro in Owings Mills, an attorney who knew Dawson since her time in the public defender’s office. “She was very good at whatever it was she was doing, and she was a terrific juvenile master.”
Baltimore County Circuit Court Administrative Judge Kathleen G. Cox said Dawson first handled mainly domestic cases in her role as a master, but began helping with the overload of juvenile cases in the system about 10 years ago.
“She was smart and had a good sense of the law, but she also had a good read on people — she clearly loved the kids, but she would hold people accountable,” Cox said. “She was a quick study on people and she got to the bottom of things.”
Dawson’s bold personality stood out in the courtroom, at Bar association events and in one-on-one conversations, her friends and colleagues said.
“There’s so much that I will miss about her — that hearty laugh, how she would give you this askance kind of look, this sideways look, if you said something she thought was funny,” said Marie Cooke, who worked with Dawson in the county public defender’s office and now works with Shapiro. “Everybody should know a character or two in their life, and she was a character.”
Dawson was “smart, funny, often irreverent,” Cox added.
As a woman launching a career in what was then a male-dominated field, Dawson quickly became an active member of the women’s Bar and the county Bar association. She eventually served terms as the president of the Baltimore Women’s Bar Association and the Women’s Bar Association of Maryland.
On May 1, Law Day, Dawson received the Judith P. Ritchey Achievement Award, which is presented on annually by the Baltimore County Bar Association to a member who has made “significant, unrecognized contributions” that have enhanced the Bar association.
“She kind of paved the way,” Shapiro said. “Back in the day when women didn’t always get treated the way they should, that didn’t hold her back. Nothing held her back — if she wanted to do something, she did it.”
Despite her accomplishments, Dawson never took herself too seriously, Cox said.
“She was very active, very well-known and just a huge personality,” she said.
Added Cooke: “She radiated life. She was just an astonishing person.”
Dawson is survived by her husband, District Court of Maryland Judge Steven D. Wyman; her three children, Matt Wyman of Baltimore a Towson solo practitioner, Kendall Wyman of Charleston, S.C. and Tyler Wyman, of Garmisch, Germany; her brother and sister-in-law, Bill and Betty Dawson of Fallston; her sister-in-law and brother in-law, Marcey and Dr. Mark Eisen of Owings Mills; and many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at the Haebler Memorial Chapel on the Goucher College campus in Towson on Aug. 30 at 3 p.m.