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Frank E. Cicone, Baltimore County circuit judge, dies

Judge Frank E. Cicone, former chief administrative judge of the Baltimore County Circuit Court, died Thursday from congestive heart failure at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.
Judge Frank E. Cicone, former chief administrative judge of the Baltimore County Circuit Court, died Thursday from congestive heart failure at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.(Handout / HANDOUT)

Judge Frank E. Cicone, former chief administrative judge of the Baltimore County Circuit Court, who had a second career as a settlement court judge, died of congestive heart failure Thursday at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

The Lutherville resident was 95.

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"Frank was loved and respected by judges all over Maryland. He was a giant among giants," said Joseph F. Murphy Jr., who served as chief judge of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals from 1996 to 2007 and retired in 2011 as a judge on the Court of Appeals.

"I was a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge and Frank was the administrative judge," said Judge Murphy. "He supported his judges and was fair in allocating the workload, and he always put us in a position so we could do the best job we could do," he said.

"Among close friends, he was jovial and outgoing. But he always exhibited himself in public and carried himself with great dignity that was appropriate to being a judge," said Judge Murphy, who is now in private practice.

The son of Marco Cicone, a steelworker, and Erlinda Cicone, Frank Elmo Cicone was born in Pietransieri, Italy.

In the late 1920s, he and his mother landed at Ellis Island in New York Harbor, then traveled to Pittsburgh, where they were reunited with the husband and father who had gone on ahead to take a job as a steelworker.

He spent summers in Baltimore with relatives while attending Jefferson High School in Pittsburgh. After the death of his father, he brought his mother to Baltimore.

He was working as foreman on an aircraft assembly line at the old Glenn L. Martin Co. in Middle River when he was inducted into the Army.

He served in Salerno, Italy, with Army Intelligence, and was decorated by the Italian Army. He was discharged at war's end with the rank of sergeant.

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Judge Cicone attended Georgetown University on the GI Bill and obtained a bachelor's degree in diplomacy in 1948.

He attended Boston University Law School for a year, and then returned to Baltimore, where he worked as an insurance adjuster for Maryland Casualty Co. while attending the University of Baltimore School of Law at night.

After earning his law degree, he was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1959. He practiced litigation, zoning and land use law with the Towson law firm of Smith & Harrison before becoming a solo practitioner for 18 years.

In 1973, Gov. Marvin Mandel appointed him to the Circuit Court of Baltimore County, and two years later he became an administrative judge. He remained on the bench until reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 1990.

"He treated lawyers with respect and expected them to be prepared. He never disparaged anyone, and if he thought something needed to be said, he brought the lawyer into his chambers to improve the lawyer's performance without embarrassing them —they were grateful for that," said Judge Murphy.

The Baltimore County settlement court was established in 1983 by Judge Cicone.

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"The process is designed to save courts and litigants time and money, reported The Baltimore Sun in 1996. "And though judges say the settlement rate has declined in recent years, the court still works in more than half the cases."

After retiring from the bench, Judge Cicone joined the settlement court, and helped resolve cases in Courthouse Room 506 for the next 20 years.

"Frank put up with my nonsense in the courtroom when I was saying really stupid things that I thought were brilliant at the time," said Mike May, a Parkville attorney and a former police officer, who later became a good friend.

"He was kind and compassionate and had a practical intelligence. He had been a superb trial lawyer," said Mr. May. "I went to him when I had issues with cases, and he was unerringly accurate."

"I had very little experience with personal injury work and I always went up to settlement court to see Frank," said John F. Fader II, a retired Baltimore County circuit judge. "I would tell him what I thought the case was worth, and he'd then analyze it.

"He had an incredible, innate ability to put his finger on the case and helped me analyze what the problems were," said Judge Fader. "He had experience with these cases, and he understood their worth and value, and he knew what the jury was going to do.

"When I was explaining a settlement and giving him a figure, he'd keep pushing up his thumb, and then when he flatten out his hand, that was the sign to stop," said Judge Fader with a laugh.

"He was always there for me or anyone else who wanted to walk in and see Frank. He was the icon; he was the guru," he said.

Judge Cicone was an active communicant of the Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception in Towson.

In 2008, the Thomas More Society of Maryland, a Catholic association of legal professionals, presented Mr. Cicone with its annual Man for All Seasons Award.

"He was a great influence, a man who knew how to live, and he loved God," said a daughter, Linda Cicone of Lutherville. "He was a man of strength who got stronger the last few years of his life.

"He always looked a life as a blessing and never complained," she said.

He was an avid golfer and Orioles fan.

Plans for a funeral Mass are incomplete.

In addition to his daughter, Judge Cicone is survived by his wife of 58 years, the former Helen Tanzarella; two other daughters, Regina Macleay of Severna Park and Lisa Cicone of Lutherville; a brother, Cy Cicone of Whiteford; two sisters, Fran Danna of East Baltimore and Lee Ess of Highlandtown; and four grandchildren.

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