Ellsworth attorney Sandra Hylander Collier (right) relates her memories of the late Superior Court Justice Herbert Silsby to (from left) Maine District Court Judges Charles Budd and Michael P. Roberts and Superior Court Justice Bruce C. Mallonee during a memorial ceremony honoring deceased members of the Hancock County Bar Association. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY STEPHEN RAPPAPORT

Court pauses to remember lawyers who practiced before it



ELLSWORTH — The courts of Hancock County took a solemn break from their usual business last Friday for a memorial ceremony honoring members of the county bar association who died in recent years.

In a formal, oral motion, Bar Harbor attorney Lynne Williams asked the Superior Court overseen by Justice Bruce C. Mallonee “to pause in its usual deliberation and conduct a memorial service to honor the lives and legal careers” of 10 now deceased attorneys who practiced in Hancock and Washington counties.

Among those honored were Superior Court Justice Herbert Silsby; District Court Judge Bernard Staples; and attorneys Fred Burrill, Frank Cassidy, Doug Chapman, Jon Holder, John Jerabek, George Kesaris, Jim Modisette and Frank Briggs Walker.

In the gallery were family and friends of the lawyers to be honored, several area attorneys, Hancock County Probate Court Judge William Blaisdell IV and former Probate Judge James Patterson.

All of the attorneys died between 2012 and 2016. The last time the bar association held a similar memorial, according to Williams, was in 2009.

The practice of honoring the passing of Maine lawyers and judges, she told the court, dates to at least 1841.

Proceeding in orderly fashion, Williams introduced a resolution memorializing an honoree. She was followed by a member of the bar, or a family member, who related some personal memories of the lawyer and his career and then moved the court to adopt the resolution.

Presiding Justice Mallonee granted each motion, some “with pleasure,” some “with admiration,” all with evident respect.

Among those offering their recollections, and moving the court to adopt the memorial resolutions, Ellsworth attorney Sandra Hyland Collier spoke of her long association with Silsby, a Superior Court justice for some 25 years. She described him as a “mentor” when she joined his law firm after graduating from law school some 40 years ago, saying it was “always his nature to do the right thing.”

Another Ellsworth attorney, Heather Staples, told how her father, a District Court judge in Belfast, Bar Harbor and Ellsworth, rose from difficult circumstances to become a respected jurist deeply committed to the welfare of the many children who appeared before him and who delighted in his post-retirement studies at a Bangor seminary.

Visiting from her home in Sierra Leone in Africa, Katherine Cassidy memorialized her late husband, Frank Cassidy, as an attorney who “never aspired to do more in the law than represent appointed clients,” many of whom he met in an “office” he maintained in the Hancock County Courthouse law library.

Among the other attorneys who addressed the court were Nat Fenton of Bar Harbor, Ellen Best and Sophie Spurr of Blue Hill and Barry Mills of Ellsworth.

In an email on Monday, Williams said the Hancock County Bar Association is “trying to get more active in the community, both the legal community and the community at large, so it seemed fitting to restart this tradition.”

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]