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Edward A. DeWaters Jr.

Edward A. DeWaters Jr., a respected Baltimore County Circuit Court judge who handled well-known criminal cases during nearly three decades on the bench, died of pancreatic cancer yesterday at the Gilchrist Hospice Center. He was 69.

"His calm demeanor and superior intellect were admired by the lawyers who appeared before him," said Judge Dana Mark Levitz of Baltimore County Circuit Court, who is a close friend. "His ability to find a practical solution and resolve complicated issues was remarkable."

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Judge DeWaters had been chief judge for both Baltimore and Harford counties and his name appeared in numerous news articles over the years. He was involved with cases dealing with executed murderer John Thanos, the 1980 Roman Welzant snowball-throwing incident, the unsolved death of Ruxton resident Susan Harrison and the 1981 shooting of Reisterstown sporting goods store owner Stephen Hviding.

"His colleagues marveled at how calmly and diplomatically he handled the problems that were presented to him," said Judge Levitz. "His ability to find a practical solution and resolve complicated issues was remarkable."

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In recent years Judge DeWaters worked part time as a settlement judge in domestic cases.

"In his almost 30 years on the bench he handled a variety of cases - from simple landlord-tenant actions to cases involving the death penalty," said Judge Levitz. "He exhibited the same professional, judicial temperament no mater what the dispute before him."

Judge DeWaters, who lived in Kingsville, was born in Havre de Grace. He was a Georgetown Preparatory School graduate and earned a bachelor's degree at Fordham University. He was a 1964 graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law and was admitted to the Maryland Bar that same year.

"He was an outstanding individual and an excellent lawyer," said Judge John Grason Turnbull II. "Any lawyer would be happy to appear in front of him."

Judge Turnbull said his colleague was "devoted to cases in juvenile court." He recalled that Judge DeWaters tried to help young people who appeared before him. "He had a wonderful heart, but at the same time he had a firm hand."

After work as a deputy state's attorney for Baltimore County, Judge DeWaters was appointed in 1972 to the District Court bench by Gov. Marvin Mandel.

He retired in 2001 as the chief Circuit Court judge for Baltimore and Harford counties. He was also the circuit's administrative judge and oversaw the court's day-to-day operation.

"He was a wonderful human being," said Judge John F. Fader II, a longtime friend. "He had an incredible sense of humor and greeted all of us with his customary enthusiasm. He had a way of explaining to those involved in domestic turmoil how important it was to resolve differences for the benefit of the children involved."

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News accounts said that while on the circuit bench in Towson, Judge DeWaters oversaw construction of a jury assembly room, offices for settlement court judges and three state-of-the-art courtrooms.

He also was an architect of the state court system's family division, in which some judges hear divorce, custody and other domestic cases almost exclusively.

Judge DeWaters volunteered to hear family-related cases after the division was formed in 1998. He also sat in juvenile court once a week for 15 years. He said trying to rehabilitate youngsters in trouble "is something worth doing."

In a 2001 newspaper interview, Judge DeWaters said he also enjoyed presiding over civil jury trials, particularly medical malpractice cases where he not only dealt with the law, but also got to hear doctors testifying about medical procedures.

Judge DeWaters was a member of the Maryland and Baltimore County bar associations. He was a past president of the Gunpowder and Kingsville Optimist Club. He belonged to the Towson Elks.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church, 8030 Bradshaw Road, where he was a member.

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Survivors include his wife of 44 years, the former Winifred Anna Dippel; a son, Edward A. DeWaters III, and a daughter, Cynthia June DeWaters Balog, both of Baltimore County; and two grandsons.


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