Maryland Court dignitaries and members of the Kent County community gathered on the Kent County Courthouse lawn Friday, May 14, to recognize the renaming of the courthouse to the George B. Rasin, Jr. Courthouse. It was a perfect spring day for the event that drew nearly 100.
The Kent County Sheriff’s Office color guard set the tone for the event that was hosted by Kent County Circuit Court Judge Harris P. Murphy. Kent County Commissioner Tom Mason led the Pledge of Allegiance.
For the second half of the 20th century, George Rasin was a major figure in public life in Kent County and beyond. He served as an Army counter-intelligence officer during World War II and later with the Foreign Aid Office in Paris. He returned to Kent County in the early 1950s to practice law. He was elected state’s attorney and then state senator back when each county had its own senator.
Rasin was active in the election of J. Millard Tawes for governor and John F. Kennedy for president. He was also successful in passing legislation that created resident circuit court judges across Maryland. He served as the first judge of the Circuit Court for Kent County from his appointment in 1960 until his retirement in 1987. Even after that he was an active settlement judge. Judge Rasin died in December 2011.
“This honor is particularly appropriate,” Murphy said during welcoming remarks, reflecting on Judge Rasin’s impact on Maryland courts and the legal community in Kent County and throughout the state.
Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera spoke of Rasin’s contribution to “the evolution of juvenile justice to a rehabilitative model during his judicial career.”
“What a different world he lived in,” she continued. “He was a man for his time . . . and a man for our time,” citing his contributions to mentoring future generations of lawyers and judges.
District Court Chief Judge John Morrissey placed Judge Rasin among court legends, “members of the judiciary that have accomplished a significant body of work to improve the judiciary,” pointing to his contributions to juvenile reform and the design of the 1970s’ addition to the Kent County Courthouse.
“Judge Rasin designed the new courthouse with room to house a court that did not exist,” recalling that the district court system had not been created.
Kent County District Court Judge John E. Nunn, a former Rasin law clerk and longtime friend, spoke of the judge’s background: growing up in the farming village of Worton where he attended a two-room school before high school in Chestertown and Washington College that he attended on scholarship. Rasin would graduate from the University of Maryland Law School in 1941 and then immediately joined the U.S. Army heading into World War II.
“He believed in the power of education,” Nunn said. “He lived by a moral compass of paying it forward to honor those who helped him,” Nunn said, citing his participation in the American Legion, helping to found Kent Youth and the creation of the local court’s judicial law clerk program as examples.
“He believed in thorough preparation and courtroom civility. Judge Rasin lived by these words.”
Former Kent County Circuit Court Judge Paul M. Bowman remarked that “it is such a joy to come by this courthouse and see that tribute.”
“He had the gift of common sense,” Bowman continued. “He was a channel marker for judges and lawyers on the Eastern Shore.”
Bowman practiced law in Chestertown for most of his career until being appointed to the circuit court in 2009. He retired in 2017. He explained the role Judge Rasin played in the development of the Kent County Bar Association to promote collegiality outside the courtroom. As well as traditions, including welcoming of new bar members at the start of the annual court calendar.
“There is always room on the top shelf,” Bowman recalled of Rasin’s view of new attorneys coming to Kent County.
Dan Saunders closed the event by reminding the audience that Rasin was part of the “greatest generation” who took up wartime military service for as long as needed. “For the greater good,” Saunders said.
Among attendees were Chestertown residents former Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Gale Rasin, Judge Rasin’s daughter and former Maryland District Court Chief Judge Martha Rasin, a cousin. Gale Rasin was appointed to the bench in 2008 and retired in 2012. She sits specially assigned and heads the Baltimore City Circuit Court mental health program. Martha Rasin was appointed to the District Court for Anne Arundel County in 1989 and served as chief judge of the statewide court system from 2001 until her retirement in 2005.