Richard V. Waldron, 88, a former Maryland District Court judge who successfully challenged the state's law denying pensions to retired judges who practiced law, died June 26 of complications of spinal stenosis at his home in Gaithersburg.
Judge Waldron served 10 years on the District Court in Prince George's County, where he heard traffic and misdemeanor cases and where his tough demeanor frequently raised the ire of defense lawyers and prosecutors.
After retiring in 1977, he challenged the Maryland law forbidding former judges on state retirement pensions to earn income as lawyers. He opened a practice in Riverdale in 1979 while continuing to collect his judicial pension, prompting the Maryland attorney general's office to file suit against him.
In 1981, the Maryland Court of Appeals sided with Judge Waldron, saying that the state law was unconstitutional. The challenge opened the door for retired judges to resume practicing law while collecting their pensions.
At the time of the ruling, Judge Waldron said: "I had the temerity or lack of judgment to challenge the establishment, and I won because I was right. It is nice to have your opinion confirmed."
Judge Waldron, who was appointed by Gov. Spiro T. Agnew, retired when he was not recommended for reappointment. His "temperament and disposition with attorneys" was cited as the primary reason.
He often was described by prosecutors and lawyers as abrasive and unbending. However, he seemed to take the criticism in stride. In a 1977 Washington Post article, he said his insistence on punctuality from all parties and the prompt resolution of all issues, "with fairness and without prejudice to the defendant, and undue inconvenience to the witnesses, are the least to which the citizens . . . are entitled."
A native of Carterville, Ill., he was a graduate of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
He was an FBI special agent before leaving to serve in the Marine Corps during World War II. He returned to the FBI after the war.
He graduated from George Washington University's law school and practiced in Maryland and Washington from 1952 until his appointment to the old People's Court in 1967.
He was a city attorney for Cheverly and ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate in the early 1960s. He retired from his Washington law practice, Taylor & Waldron, in 1999.
Judge Waldron was a member of Grace United Methodist Church of Gaithersburg.
He was a former member of the Kiwanis Club of Prince George's County, the College Park Rotary Club, the Laytonsville Lions Club, the old Prince George's Country Club and the University of Maryland Golf Course.
He was a past president of the Cheverly Square Club.
His marriage to Rosalie Hampton ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife of 51 years, Mary Horton Waldron of Gaithersburg; a daughter from the first marriage, Sandra Dubin of Edgewater; two children from the second marriage, Mary Grace Waldron of Greenbelt and Robert Waldron of Annapolis; and three grandchildren.