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Thomas J. Bollinger Sr., former Baltimore County Circuit Court associate judge, dies

Thomas Jr. Bollinger Sr., pictured in February 1992, spent more than 20 years as associate judge of Baltimore County Circuit Court, 3rd Judicial Circuit.
Thomas Jr. Bollinger Sr., pictured in February 1992, spent more than 20 years as associate judge of Baltimore County Circuit Court, 3rd Judicial Circuit. (Check with Baltimore Sun Photo)

Thomas J. Bollinger Sr., a retired Baltimore County Circuit Court associate judge, died in his sleep Monday of a suspected heart attack at his Nottingham home. He was 80.

Mr. Bollinger was born June 6, 1941, in Baltimore. His father owned a roofing company, and his mother was a homemaker.

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Raised in Baltimore City with 10 siblings, Mr. Bollinger grew up a staunch Catholic and remained in the area his entire life.

He graduated from Loyola Blakefield in Towson, then served in the U.S. Army.

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Mr. Bollinger graduated from what was then Loyola College in 1963 and from University of Baltimore School of Law in 1968. A year later he was admitted to the Maryland Bar.

Thomas J. Bollinger Sr., pictured in June 1980, was the assistant county attorney in Baltimore County from 1977 to 1985.
Thomas J. Bollinger Sr., pictured in June 1980, was the assistant county attorney in Baltimore County from 1977 to 1985. (PHILLIPS / Check with Baltimore Sun Photo)

Mr. Bollinger’s first job out of law school was as an assistant state’s attorney in Baltimore City, where he stayed until 1976. During his tenure there, he met Joseph F. Murphy Jr.

Murphy, a retired Court of Appeals judge, described Mr. Bollinger as “an excellent judge” who was a joy to be around and work with. He also said that the judge was a “wonderful, supportive colleague” with a great demeanor.

“Tommy was a very bright guy who brought experience and a successful technique to his judicial service,” Murphy said. “He passed that on to a new generation of judges. And they will be much better for having served and having had the privilege of being in his courtroom and watch how he did things.”

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Since Mr. Bollinger died, Murphy said he spoke with a current county judge who reinforced that notion, saying he “learned how to be a good judge in his courtroom,” the retired judge recalled.

After he left the city, Mr. Bollinger worked as the assistant county attorney in Baltimore County from 1977 to 1985.

Around that time Mr. Bollinger met the woman who would become his second wife, Marguerite Hash Bollinger. The two were married at the Towson courthouse in 1984; they separated a few years later, though they never officially divorced, his wife said. Mr. Bollinger was previously married and had three children with his first wife.

“The biggest thing for him was being a judge and helping people,” Mrs. Bollinger said. “He trained many lawyers and public defenders and made a lot of careers.”

After serving as an assistant county attorney, he was a member of the Baltimore County Board of Appeals for three years. He then spent one year as an associate judge for the District Court of Maryland in Baltimore County’s District 8.

His last job, which he held for over 20 years, was associate judge of Baltimore County Circuit Court, 3rd Judicial Circuit. From 2001 to 2004, in addition to being a judge, he served as a member of the Criminal Law and Procedure Committee. He retired from the circuit court in June 2011.

While presiding over the circuit court, Mr. Bollinger faced controversy over a sexual assault case that sparked women’s rights groups and women state legislators to call for his resignation. Amid the debate, he recused himself from hearing sexual offenses or domestic violence cases for about a year before he quietly resumed presiding over them.

The Maryland Judicial Disabilities Commission ultimately dismissed the complaints but gave him a written warning about how he decided a domestic violence case. Four years earlier, the commission also reprimanded him for insensitive comments in a rape case.

Robert E. Cahill Jr., the lead Baltimore County Circuit Court judge, said Mr. Bollinger was “beloved” among those in the community, especially those within the criminal bar.

The circuit court judge said Mr. Bollinger often called himself a “street lawyer” and a “street judge” and that he will certainly be remembered that way.

“He was empathetic, understanding and merciful in cases that called for it,” Mr. Cahill said. “But he also skillfully and expertly handled many of the county’s most difficult and notorious homicide cases.”

A funeral Mass will be held at noon Saturday at St. Mary of the Assumption Church-Govans at 5502 York Road. Mr. Bollinger will be buried in a family plot in St. Mary’s Cemetery.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Bollinger is survived by three sons, Thomas J. Bollinger Jr., Duane Andrew Bollinger and Scott Bollinger; four brothers, Francis J. Bollinger, Timothy T. Bollinger, John C. Bollinger and Harry C. Bollinger; three sisters, Cyrilla Rohrer, Kathleen Pursufil and Mary C. King; and many nieces and nephews.

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