June 2005 – In Memorium – James Ignatius Keane 1944 – 2005
By Judge Vincent J. Femia
James Ignatius Keane was born in October 1944. He passed away at Inova Fairfax Hospital on June 10, 2005. He succumbed to lung cancer.
Jim, as everyone knew him, was a Prince Georgian. He was raised in Cheverly. His father was a legendary local criminal defense lawyer, Ignatius Keane, about whom they still tell stories.
Jim graduated from Gonzaga High School in Washington, DC and then went on to Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Jim started his legal career as a law clerk to J. Dudley Digges, who at that time was an associate judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals and recognized as one of the truly great judges in the pantheon of Maryland jurists. From there Jim went on to the Maryland Attorney General’s office. In his tenure with the AG, Jim was part of the prosecutorial team that charged the then Vice-President of the United States, Spiro T. Agnew, for taking bribes while the county executive of Baltimore County.
Jim had all the pedigree, training and credentials to go onto a full and rewarding career as a practicing trial and appellate attorney. But Jim had something else. He had an idea and a vision. Long before most attorneys even knew what a computer was or what it could do; Jim recognized how important a tool computerization could be for practicing attorneys.
From his service at the AG’s office he appreciated that long and involved criminal and civil cases were document driven. He began working in law related computer systems and databases designed to help lawyers manage the mountains of documents so important to litigation, negotiation and the legal practice generally.
He worked for Aspen Systems Corp., Coopers & Lybrand in New York, Arthur Young & Co. and he opened his own business, James Keane Co. that he conducted out of his home in North Potomac, Maryland.
In 1999 he became the founding chief legal officer of JusticeLink in Dallas, Texas. JusticeLink was the company that pioneered the electronic filing of documents in court. JusticeLink became a division of Lexis-Nexis.
Recently he helped found VirtualCourthous.com, an Internet-based dispute resolution company operated by our own retired Judge Arthur “Monty” Ahalt. Jim chaired the Maryland State Bar Association’s special committee on technology. He also co-authored a publication “Litigation Support Systems: An Attorney’s Guide” (1992).
Jim was not a traditional practitioner. But what he did with technology systems made the traditional practice of law both more cost effective and productive. Years from now, when technology becomes as common-place to the law as copy machines, faxes and cell phones are now, we’ll be able to point to Jim and say, “He started it.”
He is survived by his wife of 18 years, Cynthia P. Keane, and their daughter Meghan Keane, both of North Potomac; three sisters, Kathy Keane of Rockville, Paula Lautzenheiser of Springfield and Claire Keane of Rabun Gap, Georgia; and two brothers, Martin Keane of St. Petersburg, Florida and Kevin Keane of Japan.
This Memorial was first published in the Prince Georges County Bar Association Bar Journal.