Judge Joseph H. Young, a retired federal judge who presided over the 1974 corruption trial of Baltimore County Executive Dale Anderson, died Saturday of complications from a fall he suffered two weeks ago. He was 92 and resided at Roland Park Place.
"He was an exceptionally fine judge," said former Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs. "He was exceedingly fair and sensitive to the defense function. He was alert to any missteps, ethical or legal, with the government. He called them as he saw them. In a criminal case, he made sure the [defendant] got a very fair trial."
Born in Hagerstown and raised in Greencastle, Pa., he was the son of a farmer and mill owner, J. Edgar Young, and his wife, the former Mabel Koser. He was a graduate of Mercersburg Academy and earned a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College.
During World War II he fought in the infantry and was a sergeant assigned to a reconnaissance unit. Involved in the taking of the Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine at Remagen, he was one of the first to cross the structure in March 1945. He received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for "his continuous reconnaissance reports from behind the lines after having been wounded."
He then earned a law degree at the University of Virginia. He served on the board of managers of the Virginia Law Review.
In 1951 he joined a Baltimore law firm, Marbury Miller & Evans, later Piper & Marbury, where he rose to managing partner.
"He was a great trial attorney because juries liked him. He was seemingly easygoing," said Mathias J. "Matt" DeVito, a former legal colleague who is a past Rouse Co. chief executive officer. "He was accessible and approachable and was very smart."
During the April 1968 Baltimore riots, he volunteered to represent those who had been arrested. He appeared at the old Civic Center, which was used as a makeshift courthouse at the time, and defended those charged with looting and disorderly conduct.
A Republican, he was the co-chair of Maryland Lawyers for Nixon-Agnew in the 1968 election campaign. He was named to the federal bench in 1971 with the support of Sen. Charles Mathias Jr. and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew.
"He was a prominent trial lawyer with an exceptional reputation," said a former U.S. attorney for Maryland, George Beall. "When there was a vacancy on the federal court, he was of course considered."
Judge Young soon found himself on a three-judge panel that recommended leniency for four men, I. H. "Bud" Hammerman II, Jerome Wolff, Allen Green and Lester Matz, who came forward to describe their pattern of shaking down contractors during the administration of then-Governor Agnew. Their testimony led to the vice president's prosecution.
"Judge Young felt the four deserved leniency because they had come forward to give evidence against the vice president and had suffered from the public exposure they had received," said Mr. Beall, who lives in Naples, Fla.
James L. Shea, chairman of the Venable law firm, said Judge Young "could be tough on lawyers who came before him."
"He was cordial to juries, court employees and defendants," Mr. Shea said. "But as an attorney, you had better be prepared to do your job."
"He was strict. A conviction of a crime involving a firearm would send you to jail. And if you committed tax fraud, you're going to serve your time," said Mr. Shea, who had been a law clerk to the judge.
During his 31 years on the bench, Judge Young handled a spectrum of cases.
Judge Young found there was a pattern of racial discrimination in the city's Fire Department in 1973. He ordered that African-American firefighters be given promotions after years of bias against them.
Family members said Judge Young received death threats during that case. A federal marshal guarded his home.
"He was fiercely independent and not beholden to any party, group or person," said Mr. Shea. "In a trial, he could size up a set of facts faster and more completely than anyone I've ever known. He could figure who was telling the truth."
Judge Young presided in the 10-week-long case against former Baltimore County Executive Dale Anderson, who was tried for taking kickbacks from contractors in 1974. The case attracted national attention as a large number of contractors, architects and engineers testified. News accounts said Mr. Anderson placed the cash he received behind a cinder block in his Overlea home.
When Judge Young imposed a five-year prison sentence, a Sun article said it was "the stiffest sentence anyone can recall," and that it "sent shock waves through the corruption hierarchy in Maryland." Mr. Anderson ultimately served a little over a year and was later elected to serve in the General Assembly.
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He also heard lengthy testimony when the Bendix Corp. attempted to take over Martin Marietta. He also handled a Worcester County voting rights case. A Sun article said that African-Americans, who made up about 21 percent of the county's 35,000 residents, had never elected a minority candidate to a countywide office in Worcester's 252 years.
Judge Young retired in 2002.
In addition to his public service on the bench, Judge Young was involved in a number of charities and was chairman of the board of the American Cancer Society from 1977 to 1980.
Plans for services at Second Presbyterian Church, where he was a member, are incomplete.
Survivors include his wife of 67 years, the former Doris Oliver; three sons, Steve Young, a Baltimore Sun editor, Bill Young, a contractor who lives in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Hank Young, an attorney, of Edmond, Okla.; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.