The Honorable Henry J. (Harry) Monahan
November 15, 1932 – July 17, 2010
Henry J. (Harry) Monahan, died Saturday, July 17, 2010 after a battle with leukemia. Harry was born in New York City on November 15, 1932, but grew up in Darien, Connecticut, the oldest of three brothers born to Harry and Catherine Monahan. As a teenager, he attended St. Thomas Seminary in Hartford, CT from which he obtained an Associate's degree before transferring to Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service from which he obtained a Bachelor's degree in 1955. He subsequently entered the U.S. Army and graduated from Counter Intelligence Corps School and served in Bordeaux, France. He returned to Washington and entered Georgetown Law School, graduating in 1963. Harry was employed as an Assistant United States Attorney from 1963 to 1968 then began a solo legal practice, which he maintained until 1981. At that point he was appointed Judge for the District Court of Maryland in Montgomery County. He retired from the bench in 1996. Beginning in 1998, Harry began volunteering with Catholic Charities of Washington's Legal Network, overseeing their expansion into Montgomery and Prince George's counties. He received a special recognition from Catholic Charities in 2008 for this and for recruiting more than 100 attorneys to work with impoverished clients on a pro-bono basis. In addition to his profession work, Harry also served as a lector and Eucharistic Minister at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington, DC. He was a member of the John Carroll Society and the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. The son of an Irish immigrant, Harry was proud to carry passports from both the United States and The Republic of Ireland. Harry is survived by his loving wife of 49 years, Eileen Curran Monahan of Bethesda, MD; three children, Kate (David Missar) of Washington, DC, Matt of Tewksbury, Massachusetts and Tim (Christine) of Olney, MD; as well as 10 grandchildren, CJ, Matt, Bronwyn, Justin Missar, Jack Monahan and Madison Kandrotas and Timmy, Molly, Meghan, and Declan Monahan. He is also survived by a brother, John, of Rockville, MD. His brother, Patrick, predeceased him. Visitation will be held Thursday, July 22 at Gawler's Funeral Home, 5130 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Washington, DC from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial will be held 11 a.m., Friday, July 23 at The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, 3630 Quesada St., NW, Washington, DC. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Little Sisters of the Poor, 4200 Harewood Rd., NE, Washington, DC 20017.
I was saddened to learn of Judge Henry Monahan’s death several weeks ago. Judge Monahan was in private practice for approximately 16 years until appointed in 1981 by the Governor to the District Court of Maryland for Montgomery County.
I first met Henry Monahan when Ron Kane (yes, Ronald Kane of the original Schuman, Kane and Felts law firm) and I were defending a case where Judge Monahan represented the Plaintiff. The case had dragged on for approximately 2 ½ years and the Defendants had some exposure although liability was questionable. I received a call from Judge Monahan that he had been appointed to the bench and was there any way that we could resolve the matter prior to his swearing in ceremony. I conferred with co-counsel and we reached the classic settlement - no one was particularly happy with the outcome.
After ascending to the bench, Judge Monahan was the type of judge whom you should not appear before if you were unprepared. Judge Monahan practically required that attorneys appearing before him dress properly (a dark suit, white shirt and tie would suffice!), expected counsel and pro se litigants to stand if they were addressing the Court, and, most importantly, had little patience for attorneys who did not know the rules of procedure or evidence or who were not ready to do battle. There were many attorneys who left Judge Monahan’s courtroom slightly trembling and on the verge of fainting. This is in sharp contrast to many of the jurists today who walk on eggshells so as not to embarrass/humiliate/disgrace attorneys appearing before them who fail to know their case in advance or prepare their argument or know the law. Sometimes I think a dose of Monahan dished out sparingly would serve a useful purpose. To this end, Judge Monahan’s courtroom reminded me of Judge Holtzoff, a federal judge in the District of Columbia and one of the most distinguished authors on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Judge Holtzoff did not permit attorneys to bring their overcoat, umbrellas, newspapers or the like into his courtroom. There was no whispering, counsel always addressed the Court while standing and Judge Holtzoff had little patience or mercy for those attorneys who were not in a ready state, fully briefed and armed to represent their clients.
In closing, I will remember Judge Monahan as a very capable attorney in private practice, a Veteran who served his country during the war, and as a judge who sought only that the attorneys preparing before him exhibit a high degree of professionalism, preparation, and to be serious representatives of a dignified and learned profession. For those attorneys who were “dressed down” by Judge Monahan, I am confident they learned an important courtroom lesson which they never forgot.
Jordan M. Spivok, Esquire