Mercedes C. Samborsky, lawyer

Mercedes C. Samborsky

Mercedes C. Samborsky, a musician who changed careers later in life and became an attorney whose specialty was family law, died Jan. 31 of heart failure at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center. She was 84.

"Mercedes was always very vigorous in representing all of her clients, and no one was more vigorous in representing the position of her clients. She was very hardworking," said retired Baltimore County Circuit Judge John F. Fader II.


"She appeared before me on several occasions, and she was always vigilant to the needs of her clients. She was a great advocate and believed that there was nothing more important than making sure her clients got the best possible representation," said Judge Fader.

The daughter of an architect and a homemaker, Mercedes Perez Casado was born and raised in New York City.

After graduating in 1948 from The High School of Music and Art, she earned a bachelor's degree in 1952 in music and music education from Syracuse University.

An accomplished pianist and string bass player, she performed with the Syracuse Symphony and taught music at a local high school.

She was married in 1949 to Andrew M. "Milt" Samborsky, who was then in the Air Force. They later moved to Tucson when her husband enrolled at the University of Arizona, where he earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.

After moving to San Diego for her husband's work, Ms. Samborsky raised her children, gave piano lessons, and played the organ on Sundays at a local church.

In 1965, the couple and their children moved to Joppa when her husband took a job at Aberdeen Proving Ground. He died in 1992.

Ms. Samborsky was in her late 30s when she decided to study law.

"She had four kids at home and studied law at night at the University of Maryland law school," said a daughter, JoAnna Esty, a lawyer who practiced with her mother and lives in Wilson Point.

In 1969, Ms. Samborsky graduated from law school. After briefly practicing in downtown Baltimore, she put an addition on her Joppa home, which remained her law office until her death. Ms. Esty practiced with her mother from 1982 to 1990, and returned in 2012.

"We went to law school together, studied together, and passed the bar together," said retired Baltimore County Circuit Judge Barbara Kerr Howe, who said Ms. Samborsky enjoyed practicing family law.

From 1975 until 1979, when she resigned and returned to practicing family law, Ms. Samborsky was Harford County's chief zoning hearing examiner.

In 1984, in an unsuccessful bid for a seat on the Harford County Circuit Court, Ms. Samborsky, a Democrat, told The Baltimore Sun that she believed in the value of plea bargaining.

"Prior to 1971, plea bargaining was like sex before Freud, often practiced but little discussed," she said. "Plea bargaining came out of the closet when the Supreme Court in the case of Santobello v. New York recognized and approved plea bargaining."


"The Atticus Finch of Harford County, she provided legal assistance and representation to almost anyone who showed up at her door," said a granddaughter, M. Lena Beery, a University of Maryland School of Law graduate, who is the daughter of Ms. Esty and clerked for her grandmother. She is preparing to take the Maryland bar exam this month.

"I remember Mercedes appearing before me and trying cases. She was passionate about her clients, and she never slowed down or missed a beat, even as she got older," said Kathleen G. Cox, administrative judge for Baltimore County Circuit Court.

"You did not see many women litigators in her age range, so she was unique. She knew the nuts and bolts of the law and stood out," said Judge Cox. "She was feisty and passionate about the people she represented, and was someone who always gave 110 percent."

"She was also a volunteer attorney with the JustAdvice Program at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and dedicated numerous hours of her time providing legal assistance and teaching law students," said Ms. Beery, who lives in the city's Mount Vernon neighborhood.

Ms. Samborsky often participated in JustAdvice clinics at the Lexington Market, University of Maryland School of Law and on the Eastern Shore. It provides low-cost alternatives for people who need legal advice but do not qualify for Legal Aid.

"In addition, she often opened her home to single women with children who were trying to get back on their feet," said Ms. Beery.

Ms. Samborsky volunteered with city and Baltimore County public schools helping elementary students to learn to read.

Ms. Samborsky enjoyed traveling throughout the U.S. and the world, and during the summer of 2010, went with her daughter, Ms. Esty, and several grandchildren on a safari to Kruger National Park in South Africa.

"She had a spirit for adventure and never passed up an opportunity to experience different cultures," said Ms. Beery.

Ms. Samborsky enjoyed playing Bach, Mozart and Harry Belafonte's "Jamaica Farewell" each morning on her Steinway grand piano, family members said.

A public memorial service will be held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at Ms. Samborsky's home, 309 Garnett Road, Joppa.

In addition to her daughter and granddaughter, Ms. Samborsky is survived by a son, Ramon Samborsky of Silver Spring; two other daughters, Barbara Gorrera of Joppa and Sara Goss of Atlanta; and four other grandchildren.