Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : February 2007

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A Walk on the Legal Side

~Law school maps Baltimore's legal history~

Years of legal history haunt the winding streets surrounding the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore. From "Lawyer's Row" to Hooper's Restaurant to Westminster Burial Grounds, history has left its mark on this section of town.

Now, the University of Maryland's Thurgood Marshall Law Library has outlined a "Legal Historian's Tour of Baltimore," highlighting sites of particular historical significance. Online at www.law.umaryland.edu/marshall/specialcollections/aslh/, the site provides a detailed street map, designed by Nick Clulow, as well as information pertaining to the sites along the tour.

"The site was [designed] to provide a way for legal historians to see sites essential to our legal history," explains Bill Sleeman, the law library's assistant director for technical services, who along with David Bogen, a professor at the law school, created a tour that could easily be followed by foot.

The webpage was developed for the American Society of Legal History's national conference, which the school hosted last November. The site was subsequently overhauled, Sleeman adds, so the tour could be a "permanent site for anyone who visited Baltimore or the law school."

Sleeman and Bogen pooled their thoughts when it came to devising sites of valid historical significance for the tour.

"We wanted important legal events and individuals," notes Sleeman. "We started with case-specific sites, but we found it was not enough. So we expanded to include individuals of note, like Thurgood Marshall."

The tour begins at the University of Maryland School of Law, on Baltimore Street. From there, it ventures north on Paca Street and turns west onto Fayette Street, stopping at Westminster Hall and Burying Ground. Author Edgar Allan Poe is buried here, as are many other notable citizens. Robert Smith and his brother Samuel Smith are two of them. Robert was a noted lawyer and politician, serving as the U.S. Secretary of the Navy from 1801-1809 (under President Thomas Jefferson), U.S. Attorney General in 1805, and as the U.S. Secretary of State from 1809-1811 (under President James Madison). He also was a member of the Maryland State Senate and House of Delegates. His brother Samuel was a U.S. Representative and Senator, eventually becoming President pro tempore of the Senate before becoming the Mayor of Baltimore.

Next up is the Samuel Chase mansion site, east of Westminster Hall, on the corner of Lexington and Eutaw Streets (around where the Lexington Market stands today). A U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Chase is best remembered for his impeachment, a trial that has since become a standard for judicial independence.

Following Fayette Street east to Charles Street, the next stop is the former site of Hooper's Restaurant. Hooper's was the scene of a sit-in in 1960, in which a group of students protested a segregated restaurant. The students were arrested and convicted of trespassing. The appeal went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The case was sent back to the state court, which eventually reversed the outcome. The case, Bell v. Maryland, named Robert M. Bell as the first appellant. Bell would go on to become a lawyer and, eventually, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland.

Further east, on the corner of Fayette Street and Calvert Street, is the Baltimore Museum of Legal History and the Clarence Mitchell, Jr., Courthouse.

Turning south onto Calvert Street is the stretch between Fayette and Redwood Streets once known as "Lawyer's Row." In the 1800's, 14 of the city's 16 lawyers had their offices in this block-and-a-half. Many of these lawyers tried cases before the Supreme Court. Luther Martin (Maryland Attorney General from 1778-1805), Robert Goodloe Harper (Maryland State Senate, U.S. Senate), William Pinkney and Philip Barton Key all had their offices here. Martin was the defense counsel in the impeachment case against U.S. Supreme Justice Samuel Chase as well as in the treason case against Aaron Burr (both men were acquitted). Pinkney was, among other things, the mayor of Annapolis, Attorney General of Maryland, U.S. Congressman and the U.S. Attorney General.

Nearby, on the corner of South Street and Lombard, is the former location of the Maryland Law Institute, which would one day morph into the University of Maryland School of Law.

Baltimore was Thurgood Marshall's hometown; his law offices were located on the corner of Redwood and Calvert Streets, west of the Maryland Law Institute site. A walk south on Calvert Street and west on Pratt Street leads to the Edward A. Garmatz Federal Building and Courthouse. Continuing west, turning north on Howard Street and west onto Lombard Street, is the site of the Marlboro Classics Apartment Building, at the center of the case Marlboro Shirt Co. v. American Dist. Tel. Co. The tenant, Marlboro Shirt Company, sued the sprinkler alarm system company when its sprinkler alarms failed – the classic incidental beneficiary case.

Turning north onto Paca Street and west onto Redwood Street brings the tour to an end at the University of Maryland's School of Social Work. The old section of this building housed the School of Law in the 1930s. It is also the site of Pearson v. Murray, which led to the desegregation campaign, Brown v. Board of Education.

This Legal Historian's tour offers a glimpse of the history of Baltimore and its legal community. It shows where lawyers began their practice (Lawyer's Row), where cases were started (Hooper's, Marlboro), and where people ended (Westminster). Charm City's deep history is full-circle.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: February 2007