GREENBELT – A standing-room-only crowd of Maryland’s political and legal community came to a Greenbelt synagogue Wednesday afternoon to memorialize former state high-court judge and mediator Howard S. Chasanow, whom the rabbi recalled as a modern-day Aaron – more beloved than his brother Moses for having shown greater interest in resolving disputes than in handing down the law.
Like Aaron, Chasanow “loved peace and pursued peace with people,” said Rabbi Jonathan Cohen, spiritual leader of the Mishkan Torah synagogue. “Howard was a born mediator, a gifted listener.”
Chasanow died Sunday, a day before what would have been his 80th birthday. He served on the Maryland Court of Appeals from 1990 until 1999, when he stepped down to become a mediator.
U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md. and the House minority whip, told fellow mourners that Chasanow brought to mediating the same gifts he gave to his hobby of cooking: “Patience and perseverance and, of course, a sense of taste.”
Chasanow was less concerned with the issues dividing litigants, Hoyer said, choosing instead to “focus on what they had in common” and finding “great joy in resolving differences.”
“How sad it is that we lost somebody so able to do exactly that,” the congressman added. “Shouldn’t we all be that way?”
Hoyer noted that Chasanow’s casket was a simple pine box adorned only with the Star of David, in keeping with Jewish tradition.
Chasanow was “a simple, humble, extraordinary man (who) was small in stature but a giant for justice and for good,” Hoyer said.
Those attending the 75-minute service included Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera and her predecessor Robert M. Bell, who served with Chasanow on the high-court. Other current members of the Court of Appeals judges were also in attendance.
Peter B. Krauser, chief judge of the intermediate Court of Special Appeals, and Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh mourned, as did Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, whose nomination by President Donald Trump to become deputy U.S. attorney general is before the Senate for confirmation.
Hoyer, in his remarks, praised Chasanow’s widow, senior U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow, saying the couple had “a shared dedication to the law, to justice, to family and, thankfully, to all of us.”
Attorney Timothy F. Maloney told fellow mourners that he was about 14 in the early 1970s when Chasanow, then a Maryland district court judge, gave the hitchhiking teenager a ride. Maloney said he got reacquainted with Chasanow two years later when the now-fledgling driver received a traffic ticket and appeared before “the judge who picked up hitchhikers.”
Chasanow sentenced him to probation before judgment, much to the teenager’s relief, Maloney said.
Their professional bond developed in 1985, Maloney added, when he served as a law clerk for Chasanow, then a Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge.
Chasanow will be remembered for his “generosity, kindness, loyalty as a friend” and willingness to give advice to any judge or lawyer who asked, said Maloney, of Joseph, Greenwald & Laake P.A. in Greenbelt.
“Howard helped everyone, regardless of rank or status,” he said, noting all the judges and lawyers in attendance. “The synagogue is overflowing and the courthouses must be empty. We came not for his greatness but for his goodness.”
Other lawyers seen among the crowd of about 750 people included Bruce L. Marcus of MarcusBonsib LLC in Greenbelt; Andy Levy of Brown, Goldstein & Levy LLP in Baltimore; and William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr., of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy in Baltimore.
Chasanow is interred at King David Memorial Gardens in Falls Church, Virginia.