Retired Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court Judge John W. Sause Jr., founding director of the county historical society, dies

Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at The Baltimore Sun.

John W. Sause, Jr. was public defender for Caroline, Cecil, Kent, Talbot and Queen Anne’s counties from 1971 to 1983. He's shown here in 2012.

Retired Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court Judge John W. Sause Jr., who was the founding director of the Queen Anne’s County Historical Society, died of a heart infection Nov. 28 at the Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis. The former longtime Centreville resident was 88.

“John was very, very smart and had a wonderful wit, but he could be cantankerous, especially when he was dealing with unprepared lawyers. He’d get angry with them,” said Shale D. Stiller, a Baltimore lawyer and a partner at DLA Piper LLP, who had known Judge Sause since the days when they were both young lawyers, more than 60 years ago.


Mr. Stiller added that Judge Sause was “highly respected” and “wanted to be known as a jolly fellow with a great wit. But if you got on the other side of that wit, he knew how to tear you up.”

John William Sause Jr., son of John W. Sause Sr., owner of the Lorraine Construction Co., which built the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and the old Friendship Airport, now BWI Marshall Airport, and his wife, Matilda Barkley Sause, manager of the Hutzler’s department store tearoom, was born in Baltimore and raised near Clifton Park.


As a young man, he drove a truck during the building of the Bay Bridge, his wife said.

“I started working at a law office when I was 14,” Judge Sause explained in a 2003 article in the Easton-based Star-Democrat, working for J. Calvin Carney, who had a large real estate practice, and he often liked slipping into the criminal courts to watch the proceedings, which he found fascinating.

Retired Judge John W. Sause, Jr, left, and Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, right, laugh after the 2012 ceremonial unveiling of the Victorian clock that hung in the Court of Appeals in the State House in the late 1800s. Its new home is in the hallway outside the Court of Appeals' courtroom. The clock, in use until the late 1950s, had been given to Judge Sause, who donated it to the Commission on Artistic Property, which is part of the Maryland State Archives.

After graduating in 1951 from Boys’ Latin School, Judge Sause earned a bachelor’s degree with honors from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

He was involved with and later president of WMS, the campus radio station. One of the highlights of his radio years was interviewing Cole Porter, the noted American composer who had a summer home in Williamstown, and actor Monty Woolley, a Yale classmate and close lifelong friend of Porter’s, said the former Julia Bell “Judy” Browne, who married Judge Sause in 1963.

Judge Sause was a 1958 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law and was admitted to the Maryland Bar that year. From 1958 to 1959, he clerked for Judge William L. Henderson of the state Court of Appeals. While doing so, he made a map of land grants issued in the 1600s on Kent Island.

He began his more than 50-year legal career in 1959 as an assistant state’s attorney in Baltimore City and was an assistant Maryland attorney general from 1964 to 1966.

He then served as a trial magistrate in Queen Anne’s County until 1971 when the Maryland District Court came into existence during the administration of Gov. Marvin Mandel. He was the public defender for Caroline, Cecil, Kent, Talbot and Queen Anne’s counties from 1971 to 1983.

In 1988, Gov. William Donald Schaefer appointed Judge Sause to the Circuit Court of Queen Anne’s County, a judgeship he retained until reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 2003. From March 2002 until retiring, he was chief judge of the Second Judicial Circuit.


“The law has to get more in touch with the public,” Judge Sause told The Capital at the time of his appointment to the bench. “The law has no reason for being, except to serve the public,” and as an advocate of victims’ rights, he said, “To me, the one person the system entirely lost is the victim. Criminal law has become very preoccupied with very sophisticated legal arguments.”

He had sympathy for the accused, who may have “made one misstep in his life, and the victim, who never made a misstep,” The Capital said.

“The answer lies in balancing those two situations,” Judge Sause said.

At the time of his retirement, he reflected on his years as a judge.

“The Circuit Court is a wonderful court because of its variety,” he told The Star-Democrat in an interview. “Constitutionally, it inherits all of the powers of the king’s court in England.”

Scott MacGlashan had been clerk of the Circuit Court for Queen Anne’s for 24 years until retiring in 2018, became a close friend of Judge Sause’s.


“He was old-school but very progressive,” Mr. MacGlashan said. “He had the first computer in the county, which he used to make case management plans for us because we had been doing it manually. He agreed that we would computerize and he made sure it would go smoothly.”

He said working for Judge Sause was “refreshing.”

“He taught me how to be a better clerk and he liked to teach. We worked together, but one thing he didn’t like was surprises, and he didn’t want a yes man. He always wanted to know what you were thinking and was very upfront,” he said. “He also wanted lawyers to come to his court prepared and have a wonderful time. He didn’t want his time or the court’s time to be wasted.”

Said Mr. Stiller: “He could be tough when he felt it was necessary to be so.”

A portly pipe-smoking man, Judge Sause was a popular courthouse fixture.

Mr. MacGlashan said Judge Sause felt that criminal and civil cases were “cookie cutter,” and had a deep feeling for juvenile cases where he “could make a difference in juvenile court.”


“People were always telling me to tell Judge Sause how he turned their lives around, and each year he would host the annual Queen Anne’s County Foster Care Christmas party for foster children where he made sure they had presents,” he said.

One of Judge Sause’s lasting and important legal achievements was persuading Gov. Millard J. Tawes in 1963 to establish the Henderson Commission, which revised how decedents’ estates were settled, Mr. Stiller said.

“It went back to 1798 and in its day had been a model of clarity, but hadn’t be codified in 170 years,” Mr. Stiller said. “It had been amended and was quite shabby, and because he had gone to Gov. Tawes, this revision became a prime mover in statutory reform in the State of Maryland.”

Observed The Star-Democrat: “From office boy to circuit court judge, Sause’s long legal career has included work as a prosecutor, public defender, private attorney, and trial magistrate. He also has been a truck driver, newspaper owner and worked under a future vice president.”

The Morning Sun


Get your morning news in your e-mail inbox. Get all the top news and sports from the

In 1962, he purchased The Queen Anne’s Record Observer, which he owned and operated for more than a decade, and he was also part owner of The Star-Democrat for a brief time. He also had once owned the Bay Times and the Chester River Press.

A lifetime history buff, Judge Sause was one of three people in 1960 who signed the articles of incorporation for the Queen Anne’s County Historical Society. He was the organization’s vice president from 1980 to 1981, and president from 2004 to 2005.


He and Mr. MacGlashan enjoyed spending days examining old land grants in the Queen Anne’s County Courthouse, which dates to 1792 and is the oldest courthouse in continuous operation in the state.

Judge Sause had been chairman of Centreville’s heritage commission from 1983 to 1991 and had been a trustee and president of The Gunston School.

Since 2016, Judge Sause and his wife resided at Ginger Cove, an Annapolis retirement community.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Dec. 17 at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road, with interment in Baltimore’s historic Green Mount Cemetery.

In addition to his wife, Judge Sause is survived by a son, Robert Barkley Sause of Baltimore County’s Charlesbrooke neighborhood, and a sister, Gretchen Sause Redden of Cross Keys.