Lawyers to remember 5 who gave of their time

October 16, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

Despite a mastectomy and chemotherapy treatments that caused her to lose much of her hair, Ruthellen Holtz maintained her Howard County law practice up until cancer finally defeated her.

Mrs. Holtz used a wheelchair to go to court and meet with clients -- refusing to allow her ravaged body to defeat her spirit or her dedication to the law, said longtime friend Alan Fishbein.

"She handled it with grace," said Mr. Fishbein, an Ellicott City lawyer. "She battled this cancer to the end."

Mrs. Holtz, one of the first women to have her own law practice in the county, died in April 1991 at age 39.

Tuesday, Mrs. Holtz will be one of five deceased lawyers honored at a memorial service sponsored by the county bar association, Howard Circuit Court and Howard District Court. The ceremony at Circuit Court in Ellicott City starts at 4:30 p.m.

The other lawyers to be honored are:

* James Ansell, an Ellicott City lawyer who died in 1991 while in his 70s. Active in the Republican Party, he led an unsuccessful campaign to become Howard County state's attorney.

* Jerome Colt, a Columbia lawyer who was president of the county bar association in 1987-1988. He died last December of cancer at age 42.

* Judge James Macgill, chief judge of Maryland's 5th Circuit Court from 1954 to 1980. He died in June 1993 of cancer at age 80 at his Mount Airy home.

* H. David Scher, a Columbia lawyer and certified public accountant who specialized in tax and business law. He died of cancer at age 52 in April 1992.

Master in Chancery Nancy Haslinger described Mr. Colt as a good teacher, one always willing to help younger lawyers with their cases.

Ms. Haslinger met Mr. Colt when she interviewed for a job as an associate lawyer at his Columbia law firm in the late 1980s. Ms. Haslinger was hired, and the two lawyers often worked on cases together.

In 1991, Ms. Haslinger and Mr. Colt formed their own firm, specializing in family law. She remembered how Mr. Colt often would spend an hour on the telephone helping other lawyers with their cases.

"He was real generous with helping people out and getting them started," she said.

Charles Broida, a Columbia lawyer who practiced with Mr. Scher from 1978 to 1986, said his former partner always gave a personal touch to each case he took.

Mr. Scher liked to portray himself as hard-nosed and tough, Mr. Broida recalled, yet he always showed compassion toward his clients.

"People who didn't know him well regarded him as hard," Mr. Broida said. "People who knew him saw through that."

Ellicott City lawyer Gallatin Warfield III will speak about Judge Macgill at Tuesday's ceremony.

At a memorial service for the judge, Mr. Warfield noted that his father and Judge Macgill were best friends, having been roommates at Donaldson School in Ilchester, now Trinity Preparatory School.

While at school, Judge Macgill was picked on by a bully, but wouldn't retaliate -- not out of fear but because of his peaceful nature, Mr. Warfield said.

During one summer, however, Judge Macgill took a Charles Atlas course to build up his strength, Mr. Warfield said. There were several bronze busts at the school and when the bully approached him again in the fall, Judge Macgill picked up one of the busts and held it at arm's length. The bully never bothered him again.

Mr. Fishbein said he first met Mrs. Holtz while they were clerks at a Silver Spring law firm in 1974. A few years later, both had firms in Howard -- Mr. Fishbein in Ellicott City and Mrs. Holtz in Columbia.

Mrs. Holtz, who specialized in domestic cases, was described by Mr. Fishbein as a lawyer who knew when she needed to be tough and when she had to be compassionate.

Mr. Fishbein recalled a time when he and Mrs. Holtz were on opposite sides of a messy divorce case in the early 1980s.

The couple was close to reaching a settlement in a meeting at Mr. Fishbein's office, he said. The only issue left in dispute was the ownership of a $50 barbecue grill.

"They argued and argued," Mr. Fishbein said. "I remember [Mrs. Holtz] and I looking at one another and laughing about how ridiculous it was."

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