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Lucy Adams Cardwell, retired Maryland special assistant attorney general who focused on consumer protection, dies

Lucy Adams Cardwell was deputy chief of the Consumer Protection Division in the Office of the Attorney General for Maryland.
Lucy Adams Cardwell was deputy chief of the Consumer Protection Division in the Office of the Attorney General for Maryland. (Handout / HANDOUT)

Lucy Adams Cardwell, a retired Maryland special assistant attorney general who worked to combat consumer fraud, died of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, May 18 at her Inner Harbor home. She was 76.

“Lucy was brilliant. She was an economist as well as a lawyer,” said Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh. “She was articulate, a beautiful writer, and a terrific litigator. She was the kind of person you’d hoped would go into public service. She could have made a million dollars in private practice.”

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Born in New Orleans and raised in St. Louis, she was the daughter of Guy Cardwell, an English professor, and Margaret Randolph, a school librarian.

She earned a bachelor’s degree from Washington University and pursued training as an economist and a lawyer. She earned a doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a degree from Yale Law School.

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She taught economics at Yale and the University of Massachusetts. After clerking for Judge Ellen Burns on the Federal District Court in New Haven, Connecticut, she worked as an attorney for five years at the New York City Corporation Counsel’s Office before embarking on a lengthy career in the Office of the Attorney General for Maryland.

She served there in various positions, including deputy chief of the Consumer Protection Division. For 28 years she fought against a wide range of investment and consumer frauds and unscrupulous business practices in Maryland.

“When we had a retirement party for Lucy, we wore ‘I Love Lucy’ buttons,“ said Lauren Calia, an assistant attorney general. “She was intelligent without being arrogant, proud without being haughty, diligent without being a killjoy, and social with being exceptionally boisterous. She really took a keen interest in others. She’d marvel at your accomplishments.

“Lucy was genuine and generous. These two qualities stand out. She was interested in people and celebrated things that made people unique. Her career was dedicated to public service. She was a champion of social causes and supported policies and candidates that would make the world a better place.

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Said William “Bill” Gruhn, chief of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division: “She went after an unscrupulous locksmith who double- and triple-billed the amount his customers expected. She took the case to trial and got an injunction against him.

“She was our point person in the National Mortgage Settlement after the 2008 crisis. She helped people who continued to suffer foreclosures. She went after kickbacks from a title company and after a mortgage field services company that was locking people out of their homes.”

After retiring, she volunteered at her agency and worked to get $1 million returned to people as restitution from settlements in consumer fraud cases.

“Lucy was passionately committed to helping folks. She was an exceptional attorney who worked very hard. She was bright and had tremendous ability,” Mr. Gruhn said.

Ms. Cardwell volunteered for several organizations, including a city school program that provided Suzuki instrumental music education after school and on weekends to city students from elementary through high school. She helped to fund this education with bake sales and Christmas wreath sales.

Ms. Cardwell also worked for programs that promoted international understanding. She and her family hosted Russian judges and prosecutors, Chinese students, foreign exchange students from Italy and France, economists from Brazil and the Canary Islands, and lawyers from Bulgaria and Austria.

She traveled widely and maintained long relationships with friends abroad whom she and her family visited on vacations and hosted in Baltimore as well as in their second home in the Berkshires in Massachusetts.

She was an avid biker, hiker, gardener and cook. With her husband, children and friends, she hiked and biked many trails in North and South America and in Europe.

Every October for decades, Lucy and her family joined friends from around the United States for hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

She was a longtime resident of The Terraces in Mount Washington, and spent many hours in her garden and cooking for family and friends. Her neighbors counted on her to promote community goodwill by organizing annual picnics and other events.

“Even into her late 60s, Lucy helped older and disabled neighbors by shoveling snow from their driveways,” said her husband, Robert R. Harding.

From her college days forward Ms. Cardwell was politically active in support of progressive causes.

She was often seen at civil rights and anti-war marches in Washington and Baltimore. When her disability led to her using a wheelchair, she still attended street demonstrations and worked on mail campaigns for progressive candidates. Within the past year, she carried a Black Lives Matter poster at demonstrations in Baltimore.

For the past three years, Ms. Cardwell lived at the Inner Harbor because it gave her accessibility in her wheelchair to a broad swath of Baltimore from downtown to Canton, her husband said.

She was frequently accompanied by grandchildren who shared her delight in watching the birds and other wildlife of the Inner Harbor.

Survivors include her husband of 42 years, Robert R. Harding, the former criminal chief for the Office of the United States Attorney for Maryland; two sons, Thomas Cardwell Harding of New York City and Alexander Scott Harding of Boston; a sister, Margaret Higonnet of Cambridge, Massachusetts; and three grandchildren.

Memorial services are private.

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