Morris Lasover

[ Age 84 ] Navy veteran and longtime lawyer worked on civil rights cases and championed workplace safety.

"He was focused on defendants' rights and making sure they were treated fairly," his son said.

December 26, 2007|By Ruma Kumar | Ruma Kumar,Sun Reporter

Morris Lasover, an attorney of 47 years who until two weeks before his death continued to champion workplace safety, died of heart failure Saturday at Sinai Hospital. The Baltimore native was 84.

Born in 1923, Mr. Lasover attended high school at City College, where he was on the basketball and track teams. After he graduated in 1941, he went on to work at the Bethlehem Steel shipyard, helping build ships for the Navy.

In 1944, Mr. Lasover joined the Navy and spent two years in Jacksonville, Fla., training to be in a rescue squad.

In 1946, when he was honorably discharged, he passed up requests from FBI recruiters to study at the Naval Academy in Annapolis and instead pursued a degree in accounting at the University of Baltimore. He graduated in 1951, the year he met and married Lillian Goldberg. The couple settled in Pikesville. She died in 1983.

Through the 1950s, Mr. Lasover worked at his in-laws' variety store and income-tax business on Pennsylvania Avenue, and in the late 1950s he attended law school at night at the University of Baltimore. He earned his law degree and passed the state bar exam in 1960. He spent the next five years doing pro bono legal work for various civil rights groups, said his son Steven Lasover of Pikesville.

"He was focused on defendants' rights and making sure they were treated fairly, and he was particularly interested in minority rights," Steven Lasover said.

In 1965, Mr. Lasover joined a prominent Baltimore firm headed by Fred E. Weisgal, who had cemented his reputation as a civil rights advocate after he won a lawsuit demanding admission of black students into the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1947. During his tenure with Mr. Weisgal, Mr. Lasover helped argue a U.S. Supreme Court case that granted defendants the right to an attorney at preliminary hearings.

Mr. Lasover also developed a traffic court practice while at the firm. His work with traffic law led him to form a committee of judges and lawyers that consolidated all the city's traffic services at one location on Madison Street. Until his effort, the city had traffic courts split up into seven regions, Steven Lasover said.

In 1976, he left Mr. Weisgal's firm and launched his own practice on Charles Street. He and his wife renovated the building to have law offices in the front and an apartment in the back. His wife served as his secretary.

Mr. Lasover, who was also a personal injury lawyer, developed an expertise in workers' compensation cases, representing scores of corrections officers in work-related injury cases. In the 1980s, he represented Herman L. Toulson Jr., a guard who was later stabbed to death while on duty; the killing made national news.

Mr. Lasover's interest in personal injury and workers' compensation led to his holding the presidency of the Safety First Club of Maryland from 1972 to 1980. In the late 1980s he spent summers traveling across the Midwest and West, lecturing judges and lawyers about traffic safety laws.

In 2000 he joined the law firm of Grossbart, Purtney and Rosenberg, and brought along many of the clients who had been with him for more than 20 years.

"He was trying complicated workmen's compensation cases up until two weeks before his death. He was sharp as a tack," his son said. "I'm closing out my father's practice now, and I was amazed at the relationship he had with his clients. They consider him a brother, an uncle, a son. They would do anything for him because they knew he would do anything for them. He loved his work. That really made him special."

In his free time, Mr. Lasover enjoyed doing crossword puzzles and watching classic movies from the 1930s and 1940s. In his later years, he lived with his son Harry Lasover in Owings Mills, and the two of them enjoyed going to Orioles games together.

In addition to his work with the Safety First Club, Mr. Lasover was a member of the national, state and Baltimore branches of the bar association, the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Maryland, the Sons of Italy and the Jewish War Veterans.

In addition to his sons, Mr. Lasover is survived by a daughter, Shawn Miller of Ashburn, Va.; and a granddaughter. Graveside services will be held at 9 a.m. Friday at the United Hebrew Cemetery in Lansdowne.

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