M. Peter Moser, a Baltimore attorney who became a prominent advocate of ethics law, died of cancer Friday at his home at The Towers at Harbor Court condominium downtown. He was 80.
Mr. Moser was born in Baltimore and attended McDonogh School from the first grade until he graduated just before his 17th birthday, completing high school in 2 1/2 years.
He attended The Citadel, graduating with honors from the South Carolina military college in 2 1/2 years, and then went to Harvard Law School, receiving his degree at age 22. When he took the Maryland bar exam, he scored the second-highest grade that year.
Mr. Moser, who followed the path of his father and grandfather, both Baltimore judges, practiced in many different aspects of law during his career. He became a member of the Korean Bar Association while serving in the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps during the Korean War.
After two years in the Army, Mr. Moser returned to Baltimore to serve as an assistant state's attorney, heading the homicide division for two years. Much of his career was spent in private practice as a business, estate and tax lawyer.
"His interest in law was much more diverse than other lawyers'," said Shale Stiller, a former law partner of Mr. Moser's. "Most business and tax lawyers have never tried a homicide case."
In June 1955, Mr. Moser joined the law firm of Nyburg, Goldman & Walter and later became a partner in the law firm Frank, Bernstein, Conaway & Goldman. He joined Piper & Marbury in 1992.
Mr. Moser's name appeared at the top of many law review articles, bringing him national recognition. His first, written at age 23, was titled "Some Aspects of Powers of Appointment in Maryland." He became well-known in legal circles for his articles on legal ethics.
"He felt that law was such an important thing in helping to keep the peace," Mr. Stiller said. "It is in the nature of human beings to get in disputes, either among themselves or with government. ... The only way the system can work is if you have good lawyers who are also highly ethical."
Mr. Moser played an active role in bar associations, becoming president of the Baltimore City Bar Association in 1971 and president of the Maryland State Bar Association eight years later. He served as national treasurer of the American Bar Association for four years and was an active member of its House of Delegates for 24 years.
Friends and family described Mr. Moser as serious, outspoken, focused and intense.
"He thought things through rather thoroughly," said his wife, Elizabeth. "Then he became a strong proponent of whatever it was he was supporting."
Mr. Moser was a mentor to many colleagues, his wife said.
"There are many, many lawyers who say, 'He helped me, and he showed me the way,' " Mrs. Moser said. "I didn't realize the extent of how many lawyers had learned from him."
When Mr. Moser was not engrossed in law, he liked to spend time at a family vacation home in Maine. He learned to fly-fish and liked cruising the water in a Boston Whaler. He also enjoyed playing tennis, reading and history, his wife said.
A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. today at Sol Levinson & Brothers funeral home at 8900 Reisterstown Road in Pikesville.
Also surviving are two sons, Michael Moser of Falls Church, Va., and Jeremy R.H. Moser of Portland, Maine; a daughter, Moriah Moser of Brunswick, Maine; and six grandchildren.