In the coming days, there will be many stories told as people recall the life and career of John N. Prevas, the chief judge of the Circuit Court of Baltimore, who died Monday night at Mercy Hospital.
Outspoken and at times outrageous, the Baltimore-born Prevas came from an extended Greek family, became an associate judge in 1986 and then chief judge in 2006.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, in a statement issued this morning, said Prevas “set an example of fairness and scholarship for every attorney who stood in his courtroom. He was a true jurist, with an encyclopedic memory of the law, and every case that came before his court.”
“Judge Prevas was a great person, and it was a joy to know him outside the courtroom,” she also said.
Here are a few interesting stories about Prevas.
* Over the line – Sometimes his behavior drew official reprimands. In 2004 he called a defendant who discharged his attorney “a jerk,” and in 2005 used the phone in open court to arrange for his longtime girlfriend to get a rescheduled date for her jury duty.
* “Drop and give me 25” – In 2002 he ordered a Baltimore Police Department detective to do 25 push-ups because he had been out on vacation on the day Prevas expected him in court.
* He got out through the bathroom window – In 1993, convicted murderer Dontay Carter escaped through the second-floor window of the bathroom of Prevas’ chambers.
* Takes one to know one – Prevas was a Zappa fan who attended the unveiling of the Frank Zappa bust in Highlandtown earlier this year and was quoted widely by reporters that day trying to put the musician in perspective. He told the Los Angeles Times Zappa was “a paradoxical icon for freedom” and said to the Sun, “He’s one of us, just like H. L. Mencken and Edgar Allan Poe and Babe Ruth and Billie Holiday.”
* Taking on Little Willie – As an assistant state’s attorney, Prevas “had the chutzpah” to attempt to convict legendary Baltimore gambling boss William L. Little Willie Adams, recalled his former law clerk Hal Reidl in a recent City Paper article.
* “A Big No-No” – In 2009, Prevas set bail for a pregnant 21-year-old correctional officer at $1 million after she was caught smuggling a cell phone to her boyfriend (and the father of her child) in prison. Questioned about setting such high bail for a defendant facing only misdemeanor charges, Prevas did not relent: “Cell phones in a correctional setting are a big no-no,” he said, according to City Paper .