Gerald M. Richman, an Ellicott City attorney and decorated Vietnam veteran whose legal career spanned more than 40 years, died of pancreatic cancer March 19 at his Pikesville home. He was 73.
"Jerry was a very fine lawyer and a wonderful advocate," said U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett. "And he always had great savvy in the courtroom."
"Jerry was like a terrier once he got a hold of a case. He never let go. He put everything he had into his cases," said former Baltimore Circuit Judge Peter D. Ward, who is now in private practice. "He was a hard-charging trial lawyer who became a good friend."
Dan Scherr, who is a partner in the Columbia law firm of Carney, Kelehan, Bresler, Bennett & Scherr, was also a longtime friend.
"He was a very tough lawyer who fought for his clients' interests. He was totally moral in the way he approached the law and expected that in others. I think that went back to his Army days," said Mr. Scherr. "He had a reverence for the law and how things should be done. He was a great trial lawyer, and that was his first love."
The son of Louis Richman, a landlord, and Lillian Richman, a homemaker, Gerald Murray Richman was born in Baltimore and raised in the city's Ashburton neighborhood.
After graduating from City College in 1959, Mr. Richman earned a bachelor's degree in economics with a minor in political science in 1963 from Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College. He earned his law degree in 1966 from the University of Maryland School of Law.
From 1967 to 1969, Mr. Richman served in the Army, where he attained the rank of captain. From 1968 to 1969, he served with the 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam in the scout and interpreter programs.
Mr. Richman's decorations included the Bronze Star, Cross of Gallantry, Army Commendation Medal and Armed Forces Honor Medal First Class.
After leaving the Army, he was in private practice until joining the state's attorney's office in 1970. In 1974, he was named an assistant federal public defender, where he did general criminal trial work before the federal District Court of Maryland and appellate work in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.
"We worked in the state's attorney's office together and later the public defender's office," said Judge Ward. "Jerry never held grudges, and everyone liked him. Judges liked him."
"As young lawyers, we had cases against each other and we became good friends," said Judge Bennett. "We had a postal case and Jerry never gloated that he beat me. Years later, whenever we brought it up, we just laughed. He was just a great lawyer and a great guy."
Mr. Richman was an assistant U.S. attorney for Maryland from 1979 to 1981, serving as chief of the Major Traffickers Unit and coordinating the work of the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, IRS and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
He also cooperated with and directed state and local agencies engaged in the interdiction of trafficking in controlled dangerous substances.
"All I'll say is that I feel drug prosecutions are probably the most important job in this office," Mr. Richman said in an interview with The Evening Sun when he left the U.S. attorney's office to join the Columbia law firm of Levan, Schimel, Richman, Belman, Abramson & Scanlan.
"Drugs have probably the most devastating impact on the country today," he said. "It affects the murder rates, to some extent inflation, organized crime and armed robberies."
During the decade he worked for the law firm, Mr. Richman was involved with construction litigation, specializing in roof integrity and structure as well as foundation integrity and structure. He also developed a personal injury practice.
In 1991, Mr. Richman became a solo practitioner and focused his Ellicott City practice on complex personal injury and commercial litigation, business and corporate issues, criminal defense, family law and mediation.
"In court, he was a very experienced criminal lawyer who was always well-prepared," said Howard County Circuit Judge Lenore R. Gelfman.
He had not retired at his death.
Mr. Richman's professional memberships included the Maryland State Bar Association, the Howard County Bar Association, the Maryland Trial Association and the Fraternal Order of Police. He had served as president of the James Macgill American Inn of Court and was a charter member, president and trustee of the Bar Foundation for Howard County Inc.
He enjoyed collecting art and was an oenophile. He liked riding his bike and was a member of the Greater Glenelg Motion Study Group, a cycling club. He also enjoyed fishing for rockfish and tuna.
"Jerry faced his last days with exceptional courage, dignity and grace. He had no self-pity and was grateful for what he considered a life well lived," said Judge Bennett.
"He received family and friends until the end while expressing his love for them," he said. "Jerry taught us how to die. It was his legacy to his family and friends."
Mr. Richman was a lifelong member of Beth El Congregation, of which his parents had been founding members.
Funeral services were held March 22 at Sol Levinson & Bros. in Pikesville.
Mr. Richman is survived by his wife of 40 years, the former Sara Fran Goldman; two daughters, Elissa Kohel of Pikesville and Jodi Dalpe of Jersey City, N.J.; a brother, Arnold "Arnie" Richman of Guilford; a sister, Debbie Widden of Asheville, N.C.; and four grandchildren. A son, Joel Aaron Richman, died in 1979.