The Washington Post

David L. Cahoon dies; was Montgomery County judge

David L. Cahoon, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge for 15 years, died of congestive heart failure May 5 at his home in Rockville. He was 92.

A daughter, Mary McGinnity, confirmed his death.

Judge Cahoon was named to the Circuit Court bench in 1971 by Gov. Marvin Mandel (D). In 1975, he became chief judge, a position that included such administrative responsibilities as the court’s annual budget, approval of routine case assignments and technical and personnel matters involving the courts.

Before his appointment to the judicial bench, Judge Cahoon had been Montgomery County attorney, a County Council member and a lawyer in private practice.

On leaving his judgeship, he was of counsel with the Bethesda law firm of Linowes & Blocher until 2008.

David L. Cahoon takes the oath of office as Montgomery County Circuit Court judge at the Rockville Courthouse in 1971. (Jim McNamara/The Washington Post)

David Linwood Cahoon was born April 8, 1921, in Brockton, Mass. He served in the Army Air Forces during World War II and graduated from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in 1948. He graduated from Georgetown Law in 1951.

In 1980, while serving as chief judge of his circuit, Judge Cahoon received a computerized summons for jury duty from himself. Judges receiving such summonses usually excuse themselves from jury duty, but Judge Cahoon complied with the summons and sat on a jury.

He was the first trial judge in Maryland — and one of the first in American legal history — to be impaneled as a member of a jury, The Washington Post reported at the time.

“It’s a little different when you’re sitting down with your peers,” Judge Cahoon told The Post. “Jury duty is somewhat similar to what judges do all the time. But it’s easier to be autocratic when you’re all alone . . . . One of my strongest impressions was of the conscientiousness of the jurors . . . . Everybody wanted to be fair and consider all points of view.”

It was because of his experience as a juror that Judge Cahoon decided to change the process by which jurors were chosen in Montgomery County, his daughter said. Previously, prospective jurors were called to serve for one month on a panel from which trial jurors were chosen.

Judge Cahoon introduced a procedure in which prospective jurors were asked to serve for just one day or one trial.

Judge Cahoon was a eucharistic minister, lector and member of the parish council at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Rockville.

His wife of 51 years, Margaret Case Cahoon, died in 1997.

Survivors include four children, Elizabeth D. Hawkins of Olney, Mary C. McGinnity of Rockville, David L. Cahoon Jr. of Poolesville and Peg Mann of Ellicott City; two brothers; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Judge Cahoon retired as Montgomery’s chief judge in 1986. Along with the one-day jury service, he introduced in the county the tape recording of witnesses’ testimony.

“The ship is trim and running well,” he said at the time he left the bench. “It’s time to step down and consider other opportunities.”

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