The Honorable David L. Cahoon
April 8, 1921 - May 5, 2013
On Sunday, May 5, 2013 of Rockville, MD. Beloved husband of the late Margaret Case Cahoon. Father of Elizabeth "Dee" Hawkins and her husband Paul, Mary McGinnity and her husband Peter, Dcn David L. Cahoon, Jr. and his wife Rani, Margaret "Peg" Mann and her husband Tony. Grandfather of Dr. Christopher Hawkins, Matt McGinnity, Katie McGinnity, Jessie Cahoon, Casey Gilbertz and Michael Mann; great-grandfather of Joanna, Emmett, Grant, Griffin and Hailey Hawkins. Judge Cahoon is also survived by his brothers, Robert B. Cahoon and Richard S. Cahoon. Friends will be received at St. Mary's Catholic Church, 520 Veirs Mill Road, Rockville, MD on Friday from 5 to 8 p.m., with prayers being offered at 7 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial will be offered on Saturday, May 11 at 11 a.m. Interment to follow at St. Mary's Cemetery on Baltimore Rd in Rockville.
In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to Loyola Retreat House, P.O. Box 9, 9270 Loyola Retreat Road, Faulkner, MD 20632 or to Ignatian Volunteer Corps, 801 St. Paul St., Baltimore, MD 21202. Please sign family guestbook at www.pumphreyfuneralhome.com.
This eulogy was spoken, with love, by Judge Ann Sundt at his service on Saturday, May 11th.
In the door he’d stride, sometime between 8:00 and 8:15 AM---Monday through Friday, with a cheery “How’re you!” it was more an exclamation than a question. But the next thing out of his mouth was a question: “How’s the coffee?”
He wanted it black---no cream, no sugar, ---just hot and black.
And with a snap of his suspenders, the day began for those of us privileged to be the Judge’s lawclerks.
Dee, Mary, Peggy and David----we knew of you, met some of you, but did you know that you shared your father with so many others? Some of us were too old to be his children, chronologically. I arrived in his chambers at the age of 43. Perhaps he hoped that with age comes wisdom-----well, as someone once noted, for some of us age just came all by itself.
It is my great honor today to speak in behalf of Judge Cahoon’s many law clerks. There were more than 30 of us who worked with him during his 17 years on the Circuit Court. Some are here today. One in particular I want to acknowledge because, just as he was at my side in 1981 when we clerked together, he has been a friend ever since---and I am grateful to Abbot Kominers for his help, as always, in today’s proceedings. Others have not been able to come: David Podolsky has a son graduating from law school today and sends his love and his regrets. Others who asked me to convey their love and their regrets are the judges of the circuit court who would be here but for the fact that their presence has been summoned to the annual conference of circuit court judges over on the eastern shore this weekend.
Those of Judge Cahoon’s former lawclerks whom I was able to reach, I asked them: what do you want to say to his family about the Judge you knew?
Universally my colleagues describe the Judge as a man of wisdom, compassion, and strength. One went so far as to say he had a great sense of humor…hmmmmmmmm the jury is still out on that one. Let’s say this: he loved to laugh.
I want to focus on the first three words: wisdom, compassion, and strength.
Charles Dickens wrote: there is a wisdom of the head and there is a wisdom of the heart. Judge Cahoon had both. In my year with him, we had a case that involved a mother of very small children whose husband filed an emergency petition demanding that custody of the children be taken from his wife and transferred to him because he had discovered that his wife had been having an affair. A master heard the testimony at a temporary (PL) hearing and recommended that custody be given to the father based on the mother’s immoral behavior. The case came before Judge Cahoon on appeal. The Judge thought at length, gave me a mini-history course on the law concerning emergency petitions, and, after respectfully acknowledging the importance of the master’s fact-findings and recommendation, decided the husband’s petition was not an emergency under the law and dismissed it, thus leaving the children with their mother. He never mentioned “right” or “wrong”---he simply used his knowledge of the law to do what he thought was in the best interest of the children. It was then and there I knew, as Graziano said of Portia in The Merchant of Venice, that he was “a learned judge, an upright judge.”
Was that wisdom of the head or heart? Or both? If wisdom does not have its roots in goodness, perhaps it is not really wisdom but only knowledge at best, and cunning at its worst.
Howard Metro, one of the Judge’s first clerks, is here today, and earlier provided the following tribute: “ While other people had an influence on my career, that year of clerkship established in my psyche that lawyers were required to perform to a standard of excellence, to search indefatigably for not just any answer, but for the right answer, which had also to be the fairest, the most correct rule of law, no matter what the consequences.”
Usually a word associated with “touchy/feely” people. The Judge was hardly that. Quiet, gentle, his infrequent expression of emotion was a scowl, or scratching his head….so where did the description of “compassion” come from? This is a man who brought the court system in Montgomery County out of the 19th century into the 20th. He built the current circuit court----and moved the entire system across the street to its present location. But, as he and his good friend Howard Smith planned, organized and supervised the move, the Judge made internal changes that reflected his concern for the human face of justice: for example, he acknowledged the growing diversity of our community by expanding the base of interpreters so that litigants could be fully heard while speaking in their own native language. He juggled the competing demands of coping with an explosion of case filings as our community grew with ensuring that cases were heard not only expeditiously but fairly. All this, while hiring people of all ages, ethnicity, race, gender and religion.
At the same time, he taught us, his lawclerks, about “sharp practice.” It’s a term I’ve always remembered. The Judge really disliked “sharp practice.” At 8:00 AM I was frequently calling lawyers to ask if they were aware they had a hearing scheduled that day---because the record was not clear whether the attorney had been served with the motion or had notice of the hearing. I carried that memory to the bench: my law clerks spent a good part of each day insuring that both sides had notice of any hearing or motion scheduled before me, even when the rules did not so require.
Plato wrote: “The measure of a man is what he does with power.”
Having had the not-very-pleasant experience of submitting myself as a candidate for the bench, I am acutely aware of the concern of lawyers and litigants about what happens when a judge puts on a robe. It is a serious concern. “Robitis” can be ugly. Judge Cahoon was a gentle giant who used his strength not to push people down but to pull them up. Imagine every year having to deal with lawclerks who know NOTHING-----and trying to bring them along so that at least half way through the year you get some return on your investment. Yet I do not remember a single instance of exasperation, despair, sarcasm or even head-scratching in the Judge’s coping with our ignorance; patiently (and in great detail) he taught us what we needed to know, whether it was a mechanics lien or the origin of emergency (pendent lite) hearings.
Howard Metro reminded me that, when the Judge took the bench, he, a former county attorney and Counsel to the City of Rockville, had not handled product liability cases or judged criminal cases. So------------did he send Howard off to do the research and write the opinions? No, he read an entire volume of Am Jur2d on Strict Liability; and,to learn criminal law, he read the United States Supreme Court decisions for the prior ten years. In other words, he taught himself, and then he taught us.
I have a particularly vivid memory of a day---and Abbot may remember as well---when an attorney arrived in court early in the morning having driven all the way from Baltimore only to find that his case had been rescheduled. There was a certain amount of red-faced outrage in the corridor, and I was summoned, as one of the law clerks, to face this man. It was, apparently, my fault----can’t remember exactly why ( old age is merciful that way), but he had not been informed of a change in the schedule, and he had gotten up at 5AM to drive to this god-forsaken, rural outpost to be told his hearing was postponed. I listened, head down. Then I went to the Judge and apologized for the distress I’d caused. The Judge brought the lawyer into chambers. I don’t know exactly what I expected would happen: a public apology? my resignation on a plate? I don’t remember exactly what the Judge did or said….some kind of magic that sent the man back to Baltimore appeased. Maybe even pleased?
But I do remember this: and it’s a memory I held dear as a Master and later as a Judge: Judge Cahoon said to me: “There is no mistake that happens here that we cannot fix….that is what we do.”
Believe me, I have made mistakes and my clerks made mistakes, and among us us we fixed a few; the Courts of Appeals were happy to fix the rest.
But always in my mind I hear Dave Cahoon echoing the wisdom of Plato: “the measure of a man is what he does with power.”
I want to close with a fourth word that I think characterized David Cahoon:
I knew---and know---many judges. Humility is not the first word that usually comes to mind. In the arena of perpetual conflict known as the Circuit Court, one is reminded fondly of Yogi Berra’s gem: “It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.” The Judge did not hold himself out as a saint, or a hero, or even as a leader; he never interjected himself into the cases he heard: he let lawyers try their cases. Similarly he did not intrude into our lives; he let us all play out our own destinies. It was not a matter of indifference, but one of trust. He trusted us to do the best we could. What a gift, what a burden, what a privilege.
Today let us honor the man we love, not by mourning him but by keeping him with us always in our words and deeds.
Anyone for a cup of coffee? Make mine hot and black…..please.