Roger Warren Titus was always in constant motion. He was a blur of activity. He was unstoppable. A man who gave true meaning to the term “multi-tasker.” On March 3, 2019, this titan of the Maryland bar was elevated to his higher and final duty station. Roger Titus left this world to go to a better place, but he also left this world a far better place.
Roger was born on December 16, 1941. He obtained his undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1963. In 1966, he earned his law degree at night from Georgetown while working a full-time job. The doggedness of this man was quite evident from the early years. While in college, he fell in love and married his precious Cathie. The demands of pursing a good education, gainful employment and a quality family life only seemed to motive him.
Roger decided to plant his legal roots in his home county. Roger was hired in 1967 as a part-time attorney for the City of Rockville by the legendary George Shadoan. Its seems that the city and Roger grew up together. While working for the city, Roger also co-founded the Rockville law firm known as Titus and Glasgow. By 1970, he was asked to serve as the appointed attorney for the city and he did so until 1982. At the time of his appointment, he was a mere 27 years old. In 1988, Titus and Glasgow merged with Venable, Baetjer & Howard LLP.
When Roger became the city attorney, he reached out to a D.C. practitioner who would be a friend of more than 50 years. Young Vince was recruited by Roger to come to Rockville, to take the Maryland bar, and to work with him in the city attorney’s office. The offer was accepted by the one known to us today as Judge Ferretti, formerly of the Circuit Court bench. Judge Ferretti notes that Roger “had a wry sense of humor and worked hard to master things he didn’t know . . . like sailing and building a TV set” from a “do-it-yourself” kit.
Roger worked hard in building his skills in the courtroom. Trial lawyer extraordinaire, Bob Michael, had this to say by about Roger. He was the “consummate professional . . . a real lawyer’s lawyer. His deep voice, commanding physical presence and keen intellect made him a force to be reckoned with. He had a number of high profile cases and was well recognized in Montgomery County as one of the handful of elite lawyers.”
Two of Roger’s cases that drew media attention are worthy of mention here. Roger once took on “Iron Mike Tyson.” This former heavyweight boxing champion knocked out 44 of his 50 opponents. As a plaintiff’s attorney, Roger represented a man who was the victim of an assault by “Iron Mike.” But it was “Iron Mike” who lost by a knockout. Let’s just say a confidential settlement was reached rather quickly. Roger also an equally gifted defense attorney. He successfully defended then Montgomery County Council Member Isiah Leggett against a woman who was claiming to be the victim of sexual harassment. The trial lasted 5 weeks. The jurors issued their favorable verdict in a mere 93 minutes.
Roger’s body of work as a litigator is rivaled only by the breadth of the significant legal issues he ruled upon as a jurist. In these roles he handled cases involving product liability suits, mass tort litigation, complex commercial litigation, multi-district litigation, and constitutional claims of every sort. This was a man “who had the whole package.”
For 15 years, it was my pleasure to work alongside one of the great legal minds of our times. Judge Titus’ knowledge of the law was uncanny. But it was his work ethic that was undeniable. I “knew of” Roger in the early 1980’s. I “got to know” Roger in the late 1990’s. Our relationship, however, truly blossomed after he was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on November 17, 2003 by President George W. Bush. (Given his striking resemblance to then Vice-President Dick Cheney, the good-natured comparisons from friends never stopped.)
The federal court of Maryland has two well-known “Divisions.” The Northern Division is located in Baltimore and the Southern Division in Greenbelt. What people don’t know is that there is another division of the Court. . . the Western Division. The Western Division does not have a Clerk’s Office, but it is not understaffed. It does not have a Probation Office, but there are no probationers to supervise. There are no branch offices for the Federal Defender or U.S. Attorney. No, the Western Division has only one staff member - - Judge Titus. And the court is located at Deep Creek Lake. Deep Creek Lake was his most favorite destination, whether at work or play. He and Cathie built a home there in the mid-70s, and shared many celebrations, generated many billable hours and drafted more than a few judicial opinions in that space.
During our seasons together on the bench, I saw Judge Titus at least several times per week. In all those years of 12-hour work days, I have yet to see Roger leave the courthouse without two large briefcases stuffed full of work to be reviewed before the sun came up. I usually went home tired after hours of working. Judge Titus usually went home to work for a few more hours.
Judge Titus possessed a near encyclopedic knowledge of the Maryland attorney grievance process. The guiding principle of the process is to protect the public while maintaining the integrity of the legal profession. The federal court’s Disciplinary and Admissions Committee (the “D&A Committee) performs a similar role for members of the federal bar in Maryland. Judge Titus served as Chair for the D&A Committee for several years. He appreciated that the practice of law is a service industry and that practitioners had ethical duties that had to be policed for the protection of the public.
Judge Titus served on many, many committees of many, many legal groups. One of which was the prestigious Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (“CACM”) which deals with the operational issues of the federal courts nationwide. This select committee included the Honorable Philip Martinez, a former Chair of the American Bar Association’s (the “ABA”) National Conference of Federal Trial Judges. A superstar jurist in his own right, Judge Martinez made this unsolicited comment upon hearing of Roger’s death. He said that Judge Titus “was a wonderful jurist who played a critically important role as a member of CACM for a number of years. His efforts will eventually bear fruit and our criminal justice system will be the beneficiary of more thoughtfulness in the protection of cooperators.” (Among the many projects that Judge Titus influenced on a national scale was the ability of the courts to protect those who provided confidential information to law enforcement by shielding their identities unless and until due process required disclosure.)
Over the course of his life Roger was a person who used his gifts to serve others. Roger was a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers as well as the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers. Roger was a long serving member of the Court of Appeals Standing Committee on Rules and Practice and Procedure. He served on Judicial Nominating Commissions; Magistrate Judge Selection Committees; and the Standing Committee on Federal Judicial Improvements. He was a moving force on issues of gender equality in the State, as well as the Bar Foundation of Montgomery County’s Diversity Committee. Roger served in leading roles with the Montgomery County Bar Association, Maryland State Bar Association (the “MSBA”), the ABA, and the American Judicature Society. He served on numerous “Executive Committees,” “Boards of Directors,” “Boards of Trustees” etc., etc., etc. It remains an unsolved mystery as to how many places Roger served as the Chairman or President.
Roger took the helm as the President of the MSBA in 1988. Along the way, he was finding ways to help others. The first African American President of the MSBA, Harry S. Johnson, had this to say. “Roger Titus played a huge role in my becoming a bar leader. After discussions we participated in at the MSBA Conference on Minorities in the Profession in 1987, he recommended me to serve as a member of the Executive Committee of the MSBA. . . Roger was always smart, thoughtful and a great strategist. I had a great deal of respect and admiration for him.”
Judge Titus also took the time to read the work product of others and to encourage them during their seasons of leadership. As observed by now retired Judge John Debelius, Roger “was an avid reader and was one of the few . . .who actually read the Bar President’s column’s in the Newsletter.” When Judge Debelius was Montgomery County Bar Association President in 1998, Roger would send a “note from time to time” to say he liked something in the column and why. Even while quite ill during his final months in 2018, he took the time to put pen to paper for a friend. Judge Titus wrote to our current Bar President, Steve Bienstock, a kind note just to say how much he appreciated the column in the Newsletter that Steve had published about his relationship with his own father. Judge Titus took to time to let others know how much he cared. The impact of this man on those who are trying to improve this noble profession remains undeniable.
Judge Titus still casts a very large shadow. Over a month after his passing from a rare form of cancer, moments of silence were still being taken in his memory at CLE programs. This is a man who was beloved by hundreds, if not thousands. Civil lawyers, criminal lawyers, colleagues on the bench and bar of states near and far, court staff, 15 years of Law Clerks (probably 30 Law Clerks in all), - - all of this speaks to the fullness of his legal career. Of course, he will always be remembered by those whom he loved most, namely: his wife Cathie of 57 years; his children Paula, Richard and Mark; the significant others in their lives Felix, Marlene and Roz; and his precious grandchildren Ben, Grace, Emily and Drew.
For those of you still wishing to get a glimpse of this wonderful man, I direct you to the federal court website which has attempted to capture many of the oral histories of its senior judges. https://www.mdd.uscourts.gov/oral-histories If you have a story to share about him, I would love to hear it.
While greatly revered, Judge Titus was truly a blessing to many, including me. It is for these and other reasons, that I submit the obvious. Judge Roger W. Titus left this place far better than he found it!
Charles B. Day