The court czar is a rock star

The Baltimore Sun

John Prevas has found a way to shake off the world of stuffy court briefs and sober judicial robes. It starts with Steely Dan's "Cousin Dupree," the Baltimore City Circuit Court judge's signature karaoke song.

(It's about a guy making an incestuous play for his cousin. Odd choice for a judge but for the legalese - "quid pro quo" - in the chorus.) Prevas also sings "Super Freak" and many other songs, including up-to-date fare by Maroon 5 and John Mayer.

Anyone having trouble picturing that can catch Prevas' act Wednesday nights at Castaways in Canton - or go to YouTube and search for "Castaways Karaoke." There, you can see the self-described "frustrated rock star" talk-singing "Cousin Dupree," then doing a little hand jive through the guitar solo.

"I just like to sing," Prevas, 60, told me. "I always liked music. I wanted to be a DJ when I was in high school. When I went to Syracuse, as a freshman I tried out for news, weather and sports [at the radio station] and three different people said I had too much of a regional accent."

So it was on to law school and, eventually, life as a judge, which one day in 1995 involved a going-away party for a law clerk moving on to the state's attorney's office. Prevas had seen karaoke only on TV until then, but there it was at the bar where the party was held. A couple of courthouse colleagues nudged him to take a turn - expecting, he said, "a freak show."

"I really took to it," Prevas said. Unless he's at a judicial conference or in the hospital - Prevas has health problems, including a form of arthritis that has caused his neck bones to fuse so he can't turn his head - he's at Castaways with a mic in hand.

"I'm sort of trapped in a somewhat dysfunctional body, but I still manage to have fun," he said. "I never missed karaoke all through the 60 days I wore a halo collar. It looked like a space helmet."

Which is why DJ Mark Bishop plays the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey when he introduces "The pride of Courthouse East. The man with the golden gavel. The one, the only, JUDGE JOHN PREVAS!"

"We get all kinds that come in there," Bishop said. "But it's not really considered a show until the judge gets up and does his thing. He's kind of the master of ceremonies."

Said attorney Anton J.S. Keating, the former Baltimore state's attorney candidate who sometimes joins Prevas at the mic: "It's a dimension to John that you would never know. He's into it. I'm into it, but he's really into it with the dancing. He's a whole different cat out of that courthouse."

Republicans for Obama?

He worked on George Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns. Ran for office himself - Congress (1998), Baltimore City Council president (1999) and Maryland House of Delegates (2002) - as a Republican. And these days, he's enrolled in a master's of divinity program at no less a conservative bastion than Liberty University.

And, oh yeah, he's also campaigning for Barack Obama.

Tony Campbell of Towson is in charge of press for a group called Republicans for Obama.

"Turning Their Barack on GOP," was how the New York Post summed up the group in a headline.

Campbell, who is also an adjunct professor of political science at Towson University, said he gets grief from all sides. On Thursday alone, he took flak in interviews on both Air America and Laura Ingraham's show.

"The progressives think our group is a Trojan horse, that we're trying to get Hillary out of the race. ... And Republicans say we're traitors to the cause."

How does he explain himself?

"I believe Senator Obama has several policy initiatives that are conservative," he said, mentioning tax cuts for the middle class and a tax credit for business R&D.; "This election is a referendum on partisanship, and I think the American people are just sick of all this backbiting that doesn't solve one person's problem. And I think he gets it."

Lobbyist is cool with BGE delay

The furnace went out at Milt Branson's Annapolis home just as the area went into a deep freeze. Five days passed before BGE Home got it working again. Which is interesting because Branson is a lobbyist for none other than BGE.

"It even happens to company employees, and we don't get any special treatment, either," Branson said with a laugh.

He could laugh about it because he has a pellet stove, which kept the house warm all the while. And workers did come out right away. But they had to order a part before they could do the repair.

"They even offered to bring in space heaters," which Branson declined because he had the pellet stove. "I didn't know they did that. They were really, really very good to me."

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