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Joseph S. Michael

View the 2017 Leadership in Law Winners

Joseph S. Michael

Deputy State’s Attorney
Washington County State’s Attorney’s Office

With more than 20 years as a criminal prosecutor, Deputy State’s Attorney Joseph S. Michael said his most significant professional accomplishment thus far was the post-conviction litigation and re-conviction litigation of Merle W. Unger Jr.

An escapee from a Pennsylvania prison, Unger was convicted of the 1975 shooting death of Hagerstown Police Officer Donald Kline just moments after Unger allegedly robbed a convenience store. Escapes and a conviction for an additional crime lead to Unger filing a post-conviction petition years later and Michael answered the request in 1996. A series of filings and rulings lead him to retry the case and the court found Unger guilty of first-degree murder. He received a life sentence and his subsequent appeals have failed.

“I hope that my efforts as a prosecutor have made life better in Washington County,” Michael said.

A graduate of the Washington & Lee University School of Law, Michael began his legal career as an associate at Montedonico, Hamiliton & Altman, P.C. He joined the Washington County State’s Attorney’s Office in 1993 as an assistant state’s attorney and became deputy state’s attorney in 2004.

Michael is a member of multiple professional organizations and serves on many of their committees, including the Maryland State’s Attorney’s Association’s Post-Conviction Committee and the Maryland Bar Association’s Animal Law Section and Special Committee on Agriculture.

Michael volunteers on several nonprofit boards as well, including the Maryland Association for Wildlife Conservation, The Arc of Washington County Inc. and the Washington County Community Partnership for Children and Families. He is also a trustee for the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.