Judge Dulany Foster, 88, chief of Baltimore Supreme Bench


Dulany Foster, former chief judge of the old Supreme Bench of Baltimore City who also served as administrative judge of the Eighth Judicial Circuit of Maryland, died Wednesday of heart failure at Carroll Hospital Center in Westminster. The Guilford resident was 88.

Even though he had retired from the bench in 1975, Judge Foster remained a popular and highly regarded figure in legal, cultural and social circles.

"He served well and for a long time, and his death marks the loss of an important figure from the judiciary of the 1950s and 1960s," said Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan, chief judge of the Circuit Court of Baltimore City.

"He was a true gentleman of the old school and very respected," said Herbert S. Garten, a partner in the Baltimore law firm of Fedder and Garten, and a friend of more than 50 years.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Forest Park, he was the son of a manufacturer of soda fountains. He was a 1933 graduate of Forest Park High School, where he played football and ran track. He attended law school at night at the University of Baltimore while working as an investigator for the Maryland Casualty Co.

Judge Foster earned his law degree in 1937. Although he passed the state bar examination when he was 20, he had to wait until he was 21 before being permitted to practice law by the Maryland Court of Appeals.

Judge Foster began his legal career in 1937 as an associate with Weinberg and Sweeten and became a founding partner in 1942 of the firm of Tingley and Foster.

He earned a bachelor's degree in 1942 in accounting from the Johns Hopkins University before enlisting in the Navy. As a lieutenant, he commanded landing craft in the Mediterranean Theater before being sent to the Pacific, where he was wounded during the Okinawa campaign.

After returning to Baltimore in 1946, he established a solo law practice and was appointed a judge of the Orphans' Court the next year. He was named chief judge of the court in 1954 by Gov. Theodore Roosevelt McKeldin, and remained there for five years until being appointed an associate judge of the Supreme Bench by Gov. J. Millard Tawes.

Judge Foster was appointed chief judge of the court in 1966 by Governor Tawes, and three years later became administrative judge of the Eighth Judicial Circuit of Maryland.

During his years on the Supreme Bench, he was credited with helping bring the court into the computer age. He streamlined the court's operations and established the Criminal Assignment Team, which helped reduce a court backlog.

"As chief judge and administrative judge, he worked very hard at blending judicial efficiency with a fair determination of the issues. He wanted to make sure that the court could be as efficient as it could without sacrificing justice to the parties before it. He was a very good administrator," said Joseph F. Murphy Jr., chief judge of the Court of Special Appeals.

Friends and colleagues said Judge Foster exuded a certain Dickensian air that was highlighted by his style of dress - tending toward finely tailored three-piece suits which he wore with a gold pocket watch and chain. He was a handsome man with riveting, porcelain-blue eyes and a booming voice, they said.

"He was patrician and very formal. He was no-nonsense but fair-minded, and I always felt I got a fair shake," recalled Judge Kaplan, who tried cases before him as a young lawyer.

"He had a way of putting people at ease. There could be five or six people in a room discussing an issue, and he made sure everyone could explain their ideas," Judge Murphy said.

"Those of us who were then in our 20s and 30s and starting our careers will remember him fondly. He expected us to be professional and treated us as if we were," he said.

Judge Foster was censured by the Court of Appeals in 1974 for giving the "appearance of impropriety," as reported in The Evening Sun, for his role in a 1969 Carroll County land deal that netted him a reported profit of $260,000 on an investment of $1,000.

"I have decided to take early retirement. These have been interesting and gratifying years. I now wish to move on to more varied activities with other rewards," he said in a 1975 interview with The Evening Sun.

He returned to the practice of law and maintained an office in his Bedford Place home.

"He tried cases and gave legal advice," said his son, Dulany "Duke" Foster Jr. of Vero Beach, Fla.

Judge Foster was a member of many legal, charitable, civic and social organizations. He enjoyed attending the Preakness and was a frequent first-nighter at the theater, symphony and opera.

He also enjoyed spending time at a second home in Middlesex Beach, Del., where he continued water skiing until he was 80.

Judge Foster was married for 17 years to the former Florence Jones, who died in 1950. His second wife, of 42 years, the former Audrith Arnold, died in 1993.

Plans for a memorial service were incomplete yesterday.

In addition to his son, Judge Foster is survived by two grandsons and six great-grandchildren.

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