Reflections And Memories from James D. Peacock
[James D. Peacock (1930-2016); Litigation Attorney with Semmes for 34 years; Semmes Partner for 25 years; Retired: 3/1/01]
"Having spent my entire legal career of 34 years with Semmes, Bowen & Semmes, I was privileged to practice law with so many excellent lawyers and good friends. It would take a book to just summarize my experiences with all my past partners and associates. Thus what follows are only a very few highlights.
I came to the Firm never expecting to be a trial attorney certainly not arguing before juries and cross examining witnesses, but found early on that this was my niche. Thanks in large measure to the tutelage of Norman Ramsey, Rig Baldwin, David Owen and John Mudd. I learned the ropes from masters of the trade, all members of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Bill MacMillan was in the twilight of his career, but Dave Owen brought him into a case before Judge Chesnut in the District Court where I had done the legal research as a young associate and I watched the trial. Mac demonstrated how he had earned the reputation of being one of the best before juries in the state. Judge Chesnut limited him to one hour in closing argument and Mac spent probably a quarter of an hour taking out a big pocket watch and asking the Judge if he was running out of time. This was the only jury case that I was ever involved in where I saw the foreman give the victory sign behind his back to the defense attorney as they returned to the courtroom to render their verdict!
Norman Ramsey was not quite the jury trial attorney that MacMillan, Baldwin and Mudd were, but he was the most all around consummate advocate in the Firm before he went on the Bench, without peer before judges and on appeal. He also was such a generous contributor to all his partners and associates he brought me into the life, accident and health field passing on one client after another. My fondest memory was when Ben Rosenstock, former president of The Frederick County Bar, had a defamation suit filed against him in his capacity as a member of his firm and director of a bank in Frederick - his allegedly defamatory remarks were made at a cocktail party and when he told his insurer that when he spoke it was not in his capacity as an attorney or bank director, his insurer declined coverage and refused to defend him. Ben offered Norman and me a generous retainer to defend him and we told him to put it in his pocket - we would file suit against the insurer requiring them to defend him with his choice as counsel, namely Semmes, Bowen & Semmes - we prevailed in our suit against the carrier and, with them paying our fees, successfully defended Ben in the defamation suit all the way to the Court of Appeals.
Watching and working with John Mudd, I maintain he "never lost a case" - of course there were some verdicts against his clients, but never more than he had offered to settle!
Trying cases for Semmes in my day was fun! The caliber of the judges I argued before was quite high both at the trial level and on appeal. It was a time when if your clients deserved summary judgment or directed verdict, they usually got it.
My favorite client was the Sheppard Pratt Health System which gave me a change of pace from trial work while also involving me in fascinating psychiatric malpractice litigation. The Hospital got me closest to the Supreme Court where Norm Ramsey, Cleave Miller and I relied on the then available charitable immunity defense in Sammer v. Sheppard Pratt.
Most of all I am proud and fortunate to have spent all my years practicing law with the Firm."