The Sun's obituary page carried the brief, unheralded notice of the death of Benjamin Lipsitz, which occurred on May 10. Consistent with Ben's penchant for humility, the notice went on to say that services were to be private. If those were his instructions or his family's wishes, then of course they had to be followed.
However, it behooves our city and state to take pause to note the passing of one of Baltimore's great lawyers. Admitted to the bar in 1952, Ben proceeded to practice his craft for the next 60 years taking on the cases no other lawyer would handle, representing the unpopular, the underdog, and the undesirables. He did so with a great legal mind, with audacity and a twinkle in his eye regardless of how high the stakes.
Ben Lipsitz was what the late Associate Justice Robert H. Jackson would describe as "The County-Seat Lawyer" in a famous essay that appeared in the ABA Journal in 1950. Such a lawyer Justice Jackson stated, "identified himself with the client's cause fully, sometimes too fully. He would fight the adverse party and fight his counsel, fight every hostile witness and fight the court, fight public sentiment, fight any obstacle to his client's success. He never quit. He could think of motions for every purpose under the sun, and he made them all."
In 1972, when he defended Arthur Bremer, the man who shot Gov. George C. Wallace at the Laurel Shopping Center, The Washington Post reported that Mr. Lipsitz made thousands of objections in court to the prosecution's case. He believed strongly that the laws in place at that time regarding an insanity plea were unconstitutional and wanted to protect his client and the record fully. Again, the Post reported that Mr. Lipsitz vowed to appeal every possible point as high as he possibly could.
Whether he was handling a high-profile matter or a case for a client with little ability to pay, Ben Lipsitz was a lawyer "who always gave to each the best there was in him." Our community and the bar are indebted to Benjamin Lipsitz for a career that fostered the integrity and respect of and for our system of justice.
Joel C. Richmond, BaltimoreCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun