Joseph S. Kaufman, a trial attorney who helped establish the Maryland Transit Administration, died of a stroke Saturday at Sinai Hospital. The Mount Washington resident was 79.
"He represented his clients aggressively and effectively," said Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr. of the Court of Appeals. "Outside the courtroom, he was a friendly guy whose company I enjoyed."
A Baltimore native raised in Forest Park, he was a 1947 City College graduate and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland, College Park. He then graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law and served in the Army Reserves.
As a young attorney, he taught law related to pharmacy at the University of Maryland and represented the Maryland Pharmacists' Association for many years.
"Joe was the kind of person who was willing to take a case that others might avoid," said Howard Schiff, the pharmacists' group director. "He would gravitate to the underdog. He was concerned about the rights of the individual and wanted to protect against abuses by government or large corporations."
Other colleagues called him a "ferocious champion" of the little person.
"Joe was a bright and energetic attorney," said Herbert S. Garten. "It did not matter to him who he was representing, a millionaire or a pro bono client. He did what it took to represent you."
Mr. Kaufman, who was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1953, was a clerk for Judge Hall Hammond of the state Court of Appeals from 1953 to 1954. He then became an assistant attorney general. In 1956, he was named deputy attorney general, serving much of that time under Thomas Finan.
James Garland, a Baltimore attorney and friend, recalled working with Mr. Kaufman in 1961 when he handled the state's position in a suit brought by the Maryland Committee for Fair Representation. The case went to the Supreme Court and resulted in reapportioning the state legislature.
"It was a dicey question," Mr. Garland said. "The rural counties wanted to maintain their status, while places such as Montgomery and Baltimore counties were growing."
Mr. Kaufman left state service in the mid-1960s and entered private practice. During the 1960s, he represented clients before the Maryland General Assembly as a lobbyist. He once represented a gambling machine operator, but told The Baltimore Sun, "I personally don't play slot machines, or gamble in any form, but I respect the wishes of those who desire to gamble."
He was a partner in Melnicove Asch Greenberg and Kaufman, and at his death practiced at Schulman and Kaufman. He was a familiar figure at the Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis.
"Joe was one of the finest lawyers you would ever want to know," said retired Baltimore County Circuit Judge John F. Fader II. "He was an excellent trial attorney and used his boundless energy to prepare a case, and yet always remained a humble man who would be the first to visit a sick friend."
Mr. Kaufman was brought in to help solve transportation issues in 1969 as the state assumed the operations of the old Baltimore Transit Co., a financially failing private firm that operated area buses. He became the general counsel for what is now the Maryland Transit Administration. He was also chairman of the American Public Transit Association's legal affairs section.
"We called on Joe a number of times for his expertise," said former Gov. Marvin Mandel, during whose administration the transit agency was formed. "He was well-respected in the legal and governmental community."
Mr. Kaufman was the son of attorney Harry Kaufman, a physical fitness advocate who helped popularize running in Baltimore. The younger Mr. Kaufman sailed the Chesapeake Bay. He also followed college lacrosse and would travel to see a Saturday game. Family members said he would slip out of his office to watch his children compete in high school games.
He was a board chairman of Sinai Hospital from 1989 to 1991.
Services were held Tuesday at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, where he had been president.
Survivors include his wife of nearly 56 years, the former Shirley Broad; two sons, David Kaufman of Baltimore and Robert Kaufman of Austin, Texas; a daughter, Jane Kaufman of Marina del Rey, Calif.; a brother, Sar Kaufman of Baltimore; and three grandchildren.