John W. Hardwicke

Harford County Council president, state delegate and judge who headed Maryland's Office of Administrative Hearings

December 29, 2009|By Jacques Kelly

John Webster Hardwicke, a retired Maryland judge who headed a central hearing agency to resolve conflicts between citizens and the state and also served three terms as the Harford County Council president, died Thursday of pulmonary fibrosis at Harford Memorial Hospital. The Darlington resident was 82.

"He was one of the giants in the field of administrative law," said Robert M. Bell, chief judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals. "He was methodical, a man of keen vision and diligent. Maryland's system of administrative law is a monument to him."

Born in Winston-Salem, N.C., he earned a bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1950 and was a 1953 graduate of the George Washington University Law School. He was admitted to the Maryland Bar that year.

Until 1989, he practiced law in Baltimore and in Harford County. Family members said he specialized in corporate contract negotiations, national energy curtailment and supply, and environment and product liability law.

A Republican, he was elected to represent Harford County in the Maryland House of Delegates in 1962 and served there from 1963 to 1966. He was an early advocate of Maryland's civil rights movement and public education. He was also elected as a member of the Maryland Constitutional Convention from Harford County from 1967 to 1968.

In 1973, he ran unsuccessfully for Congress in a primary election, losing to Robert E. Bauman.

He served on the Harford County Council for many years and was its president from 1978 to 1990.

In 1990, Gov. William Donald Schaefer named him Maryland's first administrative law judge, in an office created by the legislature. The post, which differs from civil or criminal law, allows individuals to argue a case against a governmental action. Judge Hardwicke headed the unit known as the Office of Administrative Hearings.

"He was a magnificent presence," said retired Baltimore County Circuit Judge John F. Fader II. "John created an independent tribunal that today is an example around the country."

A Baltimore Sun columnist noted in 1991 that in its first year of operation, the office "proved a smashing success." The article said that Judge Hardwicke "whipped the hearing officers into shape" and the agency handled 60,000 cases in its first year.

Legal publications said that by 2002, when his second term expired, Judge Hardwicke was recognized as an authority in his field.

"He was a great scholar in the field of administrative law," said Judge Thomas E. Dewberry, who succeeded him. "He was passionate in his belief of due process, that every party in the dispute should be heard and respected. He made Maryland's system one of the best models in the country."

Judge Hardwicke taught business law at the Johns Hopkins University for many years. He was co-author, with Robert Emerson, of the text "Business Law," published by Barron's.

At the time of his death, he was writing an article on the Magna Carta and its significance to the American legal system.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Deer Creek Harmony Presbyterian Church, Route 161 at Harmony Church Road in Darlington, where he was a member.

Survivors include two sons, John Hardwicke Jr. of White Hall and Tim Hardwicke of Chicago; four daughters, Jill Lounsbury of Fauquier County, Va., Sandra Child of Chapel Hill, N.C., Christine Sydnor of Owings in Southern Maryland and Heidi Emerson of Gainesville, Fla.; a sister, Eileen Bodenheimer of Winston-Salem, N.C.; 17 grandchildren; and a great-grandson. His wife of 52 years, the former Mary Bunker, died in 2001.

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