September 2008 – In Memorium – Judge E. Allen Shepherd 1937-2008
Judge Arthur M. Monty Ahalt (Ret.)
I write this memorial of my friend and colleague Judge E. Allen Shepherd. Judge Shepherd was born on March 26, 1937 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. His death occurred on July 23, 2008 in Mitchellville, Maryland – and leaves behind his loving wife, Juanita, son Chuck, daughter Cindy, and 3 grandchildren
Judge Shepherd was raised in University Park, Maryland attending local schools and graduating from the University of Maryland. He was a graduate of the George Washington University School of Law. While attending school he served his country in the United States Naval Air Reserves from 1954 to 1962.
Although our roots were in University Park/College Park we did not become friends until my son, Kevin and Al’s son, Chuck were in the same Boy Scout troop in Bowie. Al and I soon decided that we would start our own informal camping and hiking combine. We first met professionally when I tried my first case as a lawyer – defending a client accused of an armed robbery of the Palmer Drive-In Movie Theater. The case was prosecuted by Assistant State’s Attorney E. Allen Shepherd and resulted in a conviction of my client. Over the next 10 + years we spent many days and hours backpacking the Appalachian and Big Blue Trail in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia and camping in Vance’s Cove near Wardensville, West Virginia. It was on the trail and around the campfire that I learned of Al’s many positive character traits and legal wisdom. Our camping group of Al, John Pleisse, John Buchanan and others solved many legal problems around the camp fire on those trips – usually with the wise counsel of our friend and colleague.
Al Shepherd had a sincere belief in God and made that relationship a priority in his life. As a long time member of Hope Presbyterian Church in Mitchellville, he sang in the choir and served as an elder. Al’s family was always a priority as the faithful
husband to Juanita for 43 years and father of Chuck and Cindy and 3 grandchildren.
Al was a man of broad interests. It was not unusual to walk into his chambers as he was listening to his favorite classical music station and reading the London Times on the Internet while he was waiting for a verdict. He was an expert on many Civil War Battles as well as World War I and World War II. He would regularly recount the batting averages of Oriole hitters as well as the ERA’s of the pitchers – he did not like to miss an opening game. And, oh yes, he was an expert in ballistics – an expertise gained from his thorough preparation of many gun cases as a prosecutor and defense attorney.
It would be difficult to find a trial lawyer in the state who had a more diverse and deep experience. Al started his legal career in Baltimore as an insurance defense lawyer with the firm of Rollins, Smalkin, Westin and Andrews where he practiced law from 1963 until 1967.Thereafter,he was appointed assistant state’s attorney in Prince Georges County where he served for 4 years from 1967 until 1971.Deputy States Attorney Vincent J Femia hired him and recounts that Al soon became the “go to guy” in the office and developed a reputation for his thorough preparation and tenacious advocacy. In 1971 he commenced the private practice of law where he successfully represented clients in criminal, family, personal injury, real estate and many other types of cases. He was regularly assigned the representation of the most difficult criminal cases including numerous first degree murder and capital punishment cases. In 1985 he was appointed the Public Defender for Prince Georges County. He served in that position until he was appointed to the District Court in 1991. During his practice Al became a mentor to numerous young lawyers who have gone on to successful careers as prosecutors, trial lawyers and judges. He launched the careers of numerous trial lawyers and current judges through his steady and wise mentoring
Al served as a District Court Judge until he was appointed to the Circuit Court in 1995 where he served until his retirement in 2007 when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. He was then recalled by the Court of Appeals and continued to try numerous and diverse cases. Judge Shepherd was predictably assigned the most difficult cases because of his breadth of experience. He was always available to assist his colleagues in grappling with complex legal and trial issues. As a Judge, Al continued his mentoring of lawyers, law clerks and newly appointed Judges.
Judge Shepherd was a court house fixture for 40 years. His presence will continue to exert wide influence through the many lawyers and judges he nurtured.
As a man, lawyer and judge he had many admirable character traits – among them – modesty, humility, honesty and diligence. Testimonies from current judges, trial lawyers and employees include the following –
– “ quiet and thoughtful”
– “ a lawyer’s judge”
– “ his door was not just open it was wide open”
– “ enormous, grace, poise, dignity and humility under fire”
– “ one of the greats of the bar and the bench”
– “ the personification of what a judge should be”
Throughout his career Al was subjected to enormous public criticism from his unpopular clients, victims, victims’ rights groups and the press. In the face of such criticism for just being an excellent lawyer, Al had the unique ability to rise above it all with humility and grace. Al was not defined by what the public said but by his faith in his Creator and his Lord Jesus Christ. That faith enabled him to achieve his life’s work.
The Bar has lost a great lawyer, judge and friend but we are better off because of his lasting character and many disciples.