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Stanley Frosh; Judge Gave Unusual Sentences

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Stanley B. Frosh, 88, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge from 1975 to 1989 who gave alternative punishments to nonviolent and first-time offenders instead of automatic jail sentences, died Jan. 19 at Grand Oaks assisted living home in Washington after a heart attack. He was a Bethesda resident.

Judge Frosh once gave a man charged with drug possession a suspended sentence and required him to work as a handyman at a home for the aged. He also ordered a drunk driver to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and volunteer in a hospital emergency room.

"I wanted him to see firsthand the results of people like him," he said at a conference on alternative sentencing in 1978. "Every minute he was in the emergency room."

Judge Frosh said jail sentences for nonviolent and first-time offenders might hurt the livelihood of the defendants and expose them to dangers of prison life.

However, he faced mounting criticism in the 1980s during calls for harsher punishments.

Judge Frosh was singled out for criticism by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and then-Montgomery County State's Attorney Andrew L. Sonner for what they considered excessively light sentencing for many cases.

Stanley Benjamin Frosh was born in Denver to Polish-Jewish immigrants. The family's finances were ruined by the Depression, which he later said contributed to his "humanitarian" approach to jurisprudence.

He was a 1939 graduate of Northwestern University in Illinois and a 1942 graduate of its law school. He received the Bronze Star for his Army service in Europe during World War II.

He was in private practice from 1948 to 1975. Among his early law clients was a Government Printing Office bookbinder accused of having been a Communist Party member and haven stolen GPO documents. The man pleaded the Fifth Amendment before a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, led by Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (R-Wis.). The bookbinder was suspended without pay.

A Democrat, Judge Frosh served on the Montgomery County Council from 1958 to 1962 and advocated the racial integration of public facilities such as Glen Echo Park.

He was defeated for reelection and tried unsuccessfully for a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates in 1966.

He remained involved in civic and business organizations. He was a former chairman of the Montgomery County American Civil Liberties Union, board chairman of the old State National Bank of Maryland and board member of the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington. He also was an adjunct professor at Georgetown University's law school.

Survivors include his wife of 63 years, Judith Wirkman Frosh of Bethesda; three children, Robin Frosh of Bethesda, Wendy Frosh of Hampton, N.H., and state Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery) of Chevy Chase; a brother, Myron Frosh of Rockville; a sister, Charlotte Antel of Columbia, Mo.; and four grandchildren.

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