What are the attributes of a man who is considered by many to be a legend in his own time? A dynamic and integral part of the Maryland legal scene for nearly a half century, Steven I. Platt has enjoyed a career so intricately woven with the fabric of this nation’s history that one colleague described him as “the Forrest Gump of politics.”
From his days of campaigning for Robert F. Kennedy during his presidential bid to his long and storied career overseeing the court systems in one of Maryland’s largest counties, it’s a challenge knowing where to begin when attempting to convey an accurate depiction of Judge Platt’s accomplishments and the lessons he’s learned along the way.
Remarkable by any standards, Judge Platt’s incredible experiences over the past seven decades are even more impressive given today’s culture. In an era where people are famous for being infamous, many of his attributes, such as honor, veracity, compassion, and integrity, are considered “old fashioned.” Then again, fame is not something the judge has ever sought or placed much value on.
Balancing the solemn and weighty demeanor required of a man in his position is his delightful and frequently self-deprecating sense of humor. It is in this vein that he happily acknowledges the Forrest Gump moniker.
After retiring from the bench in 2007, Judge Platt chronicled many of his fascinating experiences in a letter intended for younger generations within his family. That letter to his grandchildren eventually morphed into his memoir, Lessons Lived and Learned: My Life On and Off the Bench, which is an engaging account of the judge’s life filled with both humorous and pensive recollections.
In his memoir, Judge Platt shares not only very personal aspects of his life, but also priceless glimpses into the more private moments of some of history’s most notable players. He recalls it fondly as “working for stuff you believe in and having fun doing it.”
Judge Platt’s memoir is not his first contribution to the literary world. A prolific and highly praised author, Judge Platt wrote a column for the Baltimore-based legal and business newspaper, The Daily Record, for 13 years. So popular were his observations and commentaries, he was persuaded to compile his musings into three separate volumes to be released simultaneously with his memoir.
Judge Platt’s gift for the written word was well-established even prior to his ascending to the bench. In fact, another notable Maryland jurist, Judge C. Philip Nichols, Jr., once quipped, “If Platt had lived during the 18th century, he would have written the Declaration of Independence instead of Thomas Jefferson.”
Many of Judge Platt’s friends and colleagues refer to him as a “judge’s judge.” He is respected and admired by many who have had the pleasure, or displeasure, of appearing before him. His colleagues as well as some defendants have revered him for his courtroom composure and fairness shown to all parties. Rose Crunkleton, a practicing attorney and former law clerk to Judge Platt fondly remembers the myriad times attorneys would whisper to her, “‘You know he’s an excellent judge, right?’” Another colleague, Robert Bonsib of MarcusBonsib LLC, said, “Win or lose, one always felt that they had benefited from a fair, compassionate, and caring jurist.”
It is worth noting that Judge Platt was instrumental in creating and implementing the
Maryland Business Technology Case Management Program, which was cited as a model for the nation. He is also recognized as the architect of the Prince George’s County Circuit Court Drug Court and the driving force behind a total restructuring of the operations and staff of the Prince George’s County Circuit Court Family Division. “I was assigned management responsibility at one time or another during my 16 years on the Circuit Court for every division of that court except Juvenile,” Judge Platt recalls.
Judge Platt served for 30 years on the bench and has been recalled to preside over cases several times since. He is now principal of his own alternative dispute resolution firm, The Platt Group, and is a member of the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals where he serves on the board of directors of the Maryland chapter.
“I have been very fortunate to have a career that I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of,” says Judge Platt. He attributes his success to his Jewish mother who decided early on that “I was to be either a doctor, lawyer, or dentist. I can’t stand the sight of blood and am hopeless doing anything with my hands; so that left law—and what a great ride it’s been!”