George D. Solter

[ Age 86 ] Trial lawyer was a Baltimore judge, head of the state Commission on Human Relations.

October 19, 2007|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN REPORTER

George D. Solter, a retired trial attorney who served two years on the old Baltimore City Supreme Bench and later headed the state's Commission on Human Relations, died of congestive heart failure Sunday at the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. He was 86 and died a half-hour before his 87th birthday.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Canterbury Road, he was a 1938 Gilman School graduate who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at the Johns Hopkins University. He enlisted in the Army during World War II and served in Europe in ordinance supply. He left military service as a captain.

Mr. Solter received his legal education at the University of Maryland School of Law, where he was class president for three years. He was staff counsel at the old Baltimore Transit Co. and a Baltimore assistant state's attorney before joining the Due, Nickerson, Whiteford & Taylor legal firm in 1954 and becoming a partner two years later. He sat on the Baltimore Jail Board from 1960 to 1962 and served as a special prosecutor handling Baltimore County savings and loan fraud cases in 1966.

"He was an ethical, gentlemanly lawyer who found practical, humane solutions to things," said Natalie McSherry, a legal colleague.

In 1968, while on vacation in Dewey Beach, Del., he received a call that Gov. Spiro T. Agnew had appointed him to fill a vacancy on what was then the Supreme Bench of Baltimore City, now the Circuit Court for Baltimore. Mr. Solter served until late 1970, when he lost the seat by fewer than 1,000 votes in an election.

His defeat occasioned a debate on the election of judges.

A 1970 Evening Sun editorial described him as "a competent lawyer, scrupulously nonpolitical, his integrity beyond question. He was an ornament to the system [which] let him down."

He returned to what became Whiteford, Taylor & Preston law firm and was the chairman of the Maryland Commission on Human Relations in the early 1970s. He retired in 1987.

Mr. Solter was a litigator who defended insurance companies, among other clients.

"George was a well-respected trial lawyer," said William B. Whiteford, a former law partner. "He was proud of his services as a judge and was an excellent mentor to young lawyers in the firm."

Mr. Solter taught a fundamentals of trial practice course at the University of Maryland School of Law and was chairman of the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission from 1975 to 1979. He also sat on the American Bar Association's standing Committee on Professional Discipline from 1978 to 1984.

Named a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1974, Mr. Solter was president of the Baltimore Bar Foundation from 1982 to 1986 and a president of the Baltimore Court House and Law Foundation.

He was also a past president of the Churchman's Club of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. He belonged to the Rotary Club of Baltimore and was a trustee of the Keswick Home's endowment fund.

In 1965, he bought a 100-acre farm in northern Baltimore County. He lived in North Baltimore during the week and spent his weekends at his retreat. In later years, he raised and sold Christmas trees as a family project.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St.

Survivors include a son, J. Ritchie Solter of Upperco; two daughters, Susan S. Mulford of Wilmington, Del., and Catherine S. Pollock of Lutherville; seven grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. His wife of 55 years, the former Susan "Tuda" Wagner, died in 2005.

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