ANNAPOLIS — Retired Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court Judge John W. Sause Jr. died of heart failure on Sunday, Nov. 28, at the age of 88 at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis.

A native of Baltimore, Sause had a long and distinguished legal career that stretched over more than 50 years in Queen Anne’s County and elsewhere. He was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1958 and began his career as an assistant state’s attorney in Baltimore City in 1959. He was an assistant Maryland attorney general from 1964 to 1966. He was a Trial Magistrate in Queen Anne’s County prior to the establishment of the Maryland District Court system, and from 1971 to 1983, he was a public defender for Caroline, Cecil, Kent, Talbot, and Queen Anne’s counties.

He was appointed a judge in the Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court in 1988 and served until his retirement in October 2003. From March 2002 until his retirement, he was Chief Judge of the Second Judicial Circuit.

Sause graduated from Williams College with honors in 1955, and the University of Virginia Law School in 1958 and was then law clerk to Judge William L. Henderson of the Maryland Court of Appeals in 1958 and 1959.

“He loved the legal profession from an early age,” said his wife, Judy Sause. She said that as a young man he would often spend his lunch hour at the courthouse absorbing what he could about operations there. She said that over the years he took a special interest in young people who came before him, especially foster children.

A number of his associates in Queen Anne’s County remembered him with fondness.

“He was a tough, fair, old-school judge,” said retired Queen Anne’s County Clerk of the Court Scott MacGlashan, who was an old friend and worked closely with Sause for many years. “He took young clerks with no experience in the judiciary and helped them out. He provided guidance, support and trust. He always encouraged me. He did so much on the bench.”

MacGlashan said Sause liked to remind colleagues in the legal profession that our judicial system is based on English Common Law and that “we should apply good common sense in what we do.”

MacGlashan recalled that he and Sause were history buffs and enjoyed spending time together discussing county history. Both served as president of the Queen Anne’s County Historical Society and would often spend time going over old land grants in the old Queen Anne’s County Courthouse.

“We had a ball talking about local history,” MacGlashan said.

It was during Sause’s tenure on the local circuit court that Queen Anne’s County created an electronic case management system and became a leader in that area, MacGlashan said.

Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney Lance Richardson, who first took cases before Sause when he was a public defender, called him a legend.

“He was good to me as a new lawyer and helped me be a better lawyer,” Richardson said. “He was a judge I needed to be prepared for. He had no tolerance for attorneys who were not prepared. He held all of us to a high standard.”

Richardson said that not only did Sause have a “brilliant legal mind,” he also had a great sense of humor and was quite witty.

Frank Kratovil, the present District Court Judge for Queen Anne’s County, agreed that Sause was a fair and tough, old-school judge. Kratovil, who tried many cases before Sause when he was State’s Attorney for Queen Anne’s County for six years, said Sause was known throughout the state as a knowledgeable and bright jurist.

“What’s less known is how he tried to help young people,” Kratovil said. “He did his best to try and help young offenders avoid coming back to court. In many juvenile cases, he would bring young offenders to the bench and talk to them one-on-one.”

MacGlashan agreed, saying that Sause’s best work was as a juvenile court judge. “He really looked out for young people. He felt he could make a difference in juvenile court,” MacGlashan said.

In addition to his time as a sitting judge, Sause served in other capacities within the legal profession. Among other things, he was a member of the State Board of Law Examiners from 1983 to 1988 and served as the chairman of the Civil Law and Procedure Committee of the Maryland Judicial Conference from 1996 to 1999. He also was a member of the judicial nominations committee and the grievance committee.

Outside of the legal profession, Sause was also for a time a newspaper executive, and once owned The Record-Observer, The Bay Times and the Chester River Press. He was also part owner of The Star Democrat for several years. Denise Riley, retired executive editor of The Star Democrat, got her start in the local newspaper business at The Record-Observer, while Sause was the owner.

“In June 1969, I was just out of school at the University of Maryland, and I went for an interview and he marched me across the street to the courthouse to see a juvenile case and said, ‘cover this and write it up’ and then he hired me,” Riley said. Until then, she had never seen a juvenile case in court.

Riley eventually became the editor of both The Record-Observer and the Chester River Press and remained working for Sause for four years. She said he had a “ferocious temper and didn’t suffer fools gladly” and that she learned “a huge amount” from him about journalism and about Queen Anne’s County.

“We’ve always kept in touch — he was a special friend,” Riley said.

Other activities in which Sause was involved in outside of the courtroom included serving as a founding director of the Queen Anne’s County Historical Society in 1960, trustee and president of the Gunston School, and chairman of the Centreville Heritage Commission from 1983 to 1991.

“He had a great love of history and was particularly interested in local history,” Mrs. Sause said. A special interest was the carved eagle that was located for so many years in the pediment over the entrance to the old county courthouse, she said. It was in bad shape and Sause was instrumental in having an exact replica made to take its place, according to his wife. The original has been preserved inside the courthouse.

Sause was also instrumental in having a number of roadside historical markers erected around the county, such as the one commemorating the famed artist Charles Willson Peale, a native of the county. It is located on Route 18 near the 4-H Park.

In addition to his wife of 58 years, Sause is survived by his son Barkley Sause, and his sister, Gretchen Sause Redden. Funeral arrangements were still pending Wednesday. Mrs. Sause said interment will take place at Greenmount Cemetery in Baltimore.

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