Alfred Scanlan, lawyer and former appeals judge

April 27, 1993|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

Alfred L. Scanlan, a lawyer who successfully argued a U.S. Supreme Court case that reshaped Maryland's legislative districts law, was laid to rest yesterday. He was 73.

Mr. Scanlan, of Potomac, died Wednesday of complications from heart and kidney problems after a long illness.

He served 10 months on the Court of Special Appeals after being nominated by then-Gov. Marvin Mandel in September 1972.

But Mr. Scanlan resigned from the state's second-highest court in July 1973, frustrated by the "semi-monastic life." At the time, he said, his "nature and temperament apparently are not compatible with the restrictive conditions."

U.S. District Judge Edward S. Northrop, a close friend, said Mr. Scanlan was unable to adapt to the court's relatively slow pace after a career as a fast-track lawyer who argued a number of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

"He was one of the greatest constitutional lawyers we had in the country," Judge Northrop said yesterday.

On June 15, 1964, Mr. Scanlan had both his greatest victory and his biggest defeat in public life. He was at the center of two front-page stories in The Evening Sun.

That day Mr. Scanlan's most significant case before the Supreme Court was decided.

The high court struck down a Maryland law which gave rural voters more power than urban voters to elect legislators. The "one man, one vote" ruling held that it was unconstitutional for the state to keep a law that made it possible for legislative candidates to win districts in which they lost the popular vote.

That same day Mr. Scanlan lost the chairmanship of the Maryland State Democratic Convention to Mr. Mandel.

Years later, then-Governor Mandel appointed him to the judgeship. But even then Mr. Scanlan was viewed as a rival, and some speculated that he resigned from the bench to consider running against Mr. Mandel.

Mr. Scanlan served as chairman of the rules committee of the Maryland Constitutional Convention in 1967 and chairman of a task force appointed by former Gov. Harry Hughes to study taxation.

Mr. Scanlan was born in Elizabeth, N.J., on March 13, 1920.

After graduating from Columbia College, he studied at Columbia University Law School. But his studies were interrupted by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

He joined the Navy as a second lieutenant. Having learned Japanese, he went into intelligence service and intercepted Japanese military communications. After the war, he finished his legal studies at the George Washington University Law School, where he earned his LL.D. degree in 1946 and a master's degree in law. He taught two years at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., where he met his wife, the former Jean Aaron, who was teaching at St. Mary's College in South Bend.

In 1949 Mr. Scanlan went to Washington, where he held posts at the Pentagon and the former Federal Power Commission.

In 1952, he joined the Washington law firm, Shea & Gardner. He remained a partner, except for the 10-month hiatus as judge, until his retirement in 1980.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by three sons, Alfred L. Scanlan Jr. of Sparks, William Scanlan of Los Angeles and Thomas Scanlan of Potomac; a daughter, Catherine Curtin of Washington; and eight grandchildren.

The family asks that memorial contributions be sent to the Potomac Valley Nursing Center activities department, 1235 Potomac Valley Road, Rockville 20850.

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