Judge Mary Arabian dies at 81

First woman to serve on city Municipal Court

Law partner of Schaefer

August 26, 2002|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

Mary Arabian, who began a 30-year judicial career as the first female judge on Baltimore's Municipal Court, died in her sleep yesterday of complications from infarct dementia at a private home in Perry Hall. She was 81.

Judge Arabian was a former law partner of Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, the former Baltimore mayor who as governor named her to the University of Maryland Board of Regents after her 1990 retirement from the bench.

Distressed at word of her death last night, Mr. Schaefer said, "I don't know how else to describe her except that she was a wonderful lady. She was a very close friend. When you were Mary's friend, you were a friend for life."

The daughter of rug repairer Adam Arabian and Rose Kachadourian-Arabian, she was born in Washington and moved to Baltimore as a child. She was raised in the Hamilton neighborhood, attending the old Montebello Grammar School and Clifton Park Junior High, and graduating in 1939 from Eastern High School.

She considered a career as a doctor, but was lured from that notion by the lawyers who visited her family's home, by the stories of presidents who began their careers as lawyers and by a book about noted defense attorney Clarence Darrow.

"He pretty nearly convinced me, and there's a lot of credit to his theory, that it's a society that is the criminal," she told The Sun in 1990. "Literally that isn't true, but there are social pressures that contribute to crime."

She earned her law degree from the University of Maryland in 1944, and a year later was admitted to the Maryland Bar. After working through the late 1940s for the Real Estate Title Co., she went into private practice in 1951 with the firm of Schaefer, Waltjen & Arabian.

She served as an assistant city solicitor from 1959 to 1960, and then assistant attorney general for nearly a year before her appointment by Gov. J. Millard Tawes in May 1961 as the first woman on the city's Municipal Court, precursor to the District Court of Maryland.

Judge Arabian and Judge Shirley Jones, who months later was appointed as the first woman on the former city Supreme Bench, were considered pioneers before women's rights became a national cause. Judge Arabian was elected the next year to her first 10-year term.

When judging juvenile offenders for criminal offenses, she became known for her efforts to help those placed on probation.

Plans were being made for a viewing from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road, and a funeral at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

She is survived by six cousins.

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