Newsmaker

February 11, 2007

Leonard J. Kerpelman

OCCUPATION

Civic iconoclast, producer of a public access television show, former lawyer

in the news

Kerpelman has asked city officials to appoint him as a "substitute objector" to revive a lawsuit dropped by a preservationist group against Mercy Medical Center to prevent it from razing 1820s rowhouses for an expansion.

career highlights

Kerpelman, a longtime Mount Vernon resident and lawyer, represented atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair in the landmark 1963 Supreme Court case that outlawed organized prayer in public schools. He was disbarred in 1989 after the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that he charged an excessive fee in another case. In retirement, Kerpelman records Board of Estimates meetings and the mayor's weekly news conferences for a public access channel show.

personal

A native Baltimorean, Kerpelman graduated from the Johns Hopkins University in 1945 and earned a law degree from the University of Maryland in 1949. He told a reporter he is 63, but public records show he is 82. "Somebody finds out that you're out of your 60s [and] they think you're a doddering idiot. Everyone that asks me, I tell them I'm 63. ... I lie about my age, and ... it's the only way to go about things in a world where they want to tear down those rowhouses to build that stupid tower."

philosophy

"My mother and father were lawyers, and it was always an ideal in the family to do something important. The law's there to do good. That's it."

[Nicole Fuller]

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