Kirk R. Osborn, public defender

He headed the city's misdemeanor jury trial unit

  • Kirk R. Osborn
Kirk R. Osborn (Baltimore Sun )
March 11, 2013|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

Kirk R. Osborn, a career public defender who headed the city's misdemeanor jury trial unit, died of cancer Friday at Union Memorial Hospital. The Mayfield resident was 55.

"I'm going to miss him," said Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams. "Kirk was a person I could always trust. He had a high level of integrity. He was a good man who took the time to get to know his clients. His death is a huge loss for those of us who work in the justice system."

Baltimore State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein said, "Kirk was a consummate professional and a real pleasure to work with, even though we were on different sides of the aisle. He had a wealth of institutional knowledge. He was committed to the process of improving public safety. ... He was also a great guy."

Born in Baltimore and raised in Hampden and Hillendale, Mr. Osborn attended the Calvert School and the old Baltimore Experimental High School. He earned a English literature degree at Towson University and was a graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law, where he was a member of the Heuisler Honor Society.

"He was one of the smartest persons I've ever known," said Elizabeth "Libby" Julian, the district public defender for Baltimore City. "There wasn't a question you couldn't ask him. He really knew the law. He was also a creative person who enjoyed his job and nurturing young attorneys here."

Mr. Osborn joined the Office of the Public Defender as a clerk in 1983 and later worked as a criminal defense attorney. He spent 18 years as a supervisory attorney in the misdemeanor unit. He worked in criminal misdemeanors, violations of probation and non-support cases in the Baltimore City Circuit Court.

"Back when we both were in law school he got the job with the public defender's office. He loved it. To him, it was true public service," said another attorney, Peter Prevas. "He was sincere about helping his clients. And he took seriously the job of training the young attorneys under him in his unit."

Mr. Prevas befriended Mr. Osborn on their first day of law school. Over the years, he said, Mr. Osborn gained a knowledge of law that became "encyclopedic." He said that other lawyers often sought his advice on complicated questions.

"He was a strong advocate for our clients," said Norm Handwerger, an attorney and friend of many years who also works in the public defender's office. "He was a loyal friend who was witty and had a wry sense of humor. He loved to read good literature."

Earlier in his career, Mr. Osborn was a felony trial attorney. He tried about 50 cases, including seven homicides, before juries.

Friends said Mr. Osborn enjoyed dressing in well-made suits. He had his hats custom-made and often had a pocket square and boutonniere. He liked vintage watches and wore shirts with cuff links.

"He was a die-hard Baltimore guy who loved the Orioles and the Ravens," said a friend, Michael Anft. "He had a love of literature and could discuss it, but then he could go off and tell a bawdy joke. He was incredibly engaging."

Mr. Osborn was a student of Irish history, literature, music and theater, and attended performances of plays by Eugene O'Neill and Martin McDonagh.

Friends said he savored cocktails and followed the Michelin Guide for restaurants. His wife, Jane Shock Osborn, said Le Bernardin in New York City was one of his favorite dining spots. She said he did not like fast food — or mediocre food — but enjoyed tasty dishes found at neighborhood cafes.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church, Harford Road and Pelham Avenue.

In addition to his wife of 12 years, who is a human resources manager at the Maryland Transit Administration, survivors include a son, Harry Shock of Baltimore; his father, Ronald T. Osborn of Charlotte, N.C.; his mother, Regina Osborn of Ocean City; a brother, Mark D. Osborn of Felton, Pa.; and a sister, Marcia J. Osborn of Baltimore.

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