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Former lawyer found dead

January 21, 2004|By BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

A former Hagerstown attorney was found dead of apparent natural causes in an area hotel room Tuesday morning.

Washington County Sheriff's Department Cpl. Christopher Howard said Justin N. Scharf had lived at the hotel for up to five months.

Cleaning staff at the Econo Lodge on Mason Dixon Road north of Hagerstown found Scharf, 77, at 11 a.m., Howard said.

Soon afterward, members of Community Rescue Service arrived and determined Scharf had no vital signs, Howard said.

Dr. Stephen Kotch, who served as medical examiner on the death, said he arrived at the scene at 12:15 p.m. He said there appeared to be no wrongdoing.

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The death appeared to be from natural causes, and "that's all I can comment on at this point," Kotch said.

Kotch said more information likely would be released by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore in 24 to 48 hours.

He said no autopsy would be performed.

Howard said Scharf had been living at the Econo Lodge for from four to five months. He said authorities have had a "big problem" finding a next of kin to notify of Scharf's death.

Some area attorneys declined to comment on Scharf's death.

Scharf was well-known in the late 1980s for, among other legal battles, his allegations that the CSX railroad property was contaminated by hazardous waste and his fight against the City of Hagerstown to stop the development of luxury apartments near City Park.

The state Department of the Environment deemed the CSX site was not contaminated, and the city approved the development and later rejected Scharf's appeal of the decision because he filed it late.

On Sept. 21, 1991, Scharf was removed from the register of active practicing lawyers, according to published reports at the time. An order dated Sept. 13 of that year from the Maryland Court of Appeals stated Scharf's disbarment was not pursued because he filed a petition for inactive status, reports say.

Melvin Hirshman, bar counsel for the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland, previously had filed a recommendation that Scharf be disbarred from the practice of law, according to reports.

The recommendation was related to the handling of his late wife's estate after her death in 1984, according to reports. In 1986, the Judges of the Orphan's Court of Washington County jailed Scharf for contempt for failing to provide prompt information on his wife's estate, published reports say.

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