Stephen H. Sachs

Stephen Howard Sachs (January 31, 1934 – January 12, 2022) was an American lawyer and politician in the state of Maryland. He served as the Attorney General of Maryland from 1979 to 1987. He was noted for prosecuting the Catonsville Nine in 1968.

Stephen H. Sachs
Stephen H. Sachs.jpg
Sachs in November 1989
40th Attorney General of Maryland
In office
GovernorHarry Hughes
Preceded byGeorge A. Nilson
Succeeded byJ. Joseph Curran Jr.
United States Attorney for the District of Maryland
In office
June 5, 1967 – June 1, 1970
PresidentLyndon B. Johnson
Richard Nixon
Preceded byThomas J. Kenney
Succeeded byGeorge Beall
Personal details
Stephen Howard Sachs[1]

(1934-01-31)January 31, 1934
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
DiedJanuary 12, 2022(2022-01-12) (aged 87)
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Alma mater

Early lifeEdit

Sachs was born in Baltimore on January 31, 1934.[1][2] His father, Leon, worked as a labor arbitrator and taught political science at Johns Hopkins University;[1][3] his mother, Shirley (Blum), was a housewife.[1] His family was Jewish,[2] with his father serving as director of the Baltimore Jewish Council for 34 years.[1][4] Sachs attended Friends School of Baltimore, graduating in 1950.[1] He then studied at Haverford College, obtaining a bachelor's degree in 1954. He went on to serve in the US Army from 1955 to 1957, before being awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study at the University of Oxford.[1] Sachs graduated from Yale Law School in 1960 and was admitted to the Maryland Bar that year, before being called to the Supreme Court Bar five years later.[1][5]



Sachs clerked for Henry White Edgerton of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1960 to 1961. He was subsequently appointed as an assistant US attorney by Robert F. Kennedy and served in that role until 1965. That year, he became an associate and partner in Tydings, Rosenberg & Gallagher, a local law firm. He acted concurrently as a reporter to the Committee on State Finance and Taxation for the Maryland Constitutional Convention Commission.[1]

Sachs was appointed United States Attorney for the District of Maryland in 1967,[6] and acted in that capacity until 1970.[7] He focused on prosecuting cases related to white-collar crime and public corruption.[1] For instance, he prosecuted Thomas Francis Johnson for accepting money from the state's savings and loan industry.[1][8] Sachs notably prosecuted the Catonsville Nine in 1968, after the group of activists attacked the Selective Service office in Catonsville, Maryland, to obliterate draft records. They were ultimately found guilty of destroying government property by a federal court jury half a year later. On the fiftieth anniversary of the incident, Sachs wrote that he was of the opinion that the nine were "brave" individuals "who acted out of a conviction that the war in Vietnam was profoundly evil".[1] However, he maintained that their "conduct … offends both the rule of law and a fundamental tenet of the American democracy".[1]

Sachs returned to private practice in 1970.[1] During the Watergate scandal, he represented the former acting FBI director L. Patrick Gray.[9][10] He was also a faculty member at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law from 1969 to 1976, teaching criminal procedure and trial practice.[1]


Sachs was elected the 40th Attorney General of Maryland in 1978,[11] and was reelected in 1982.[12] He ran as a reformist candidate who would be independent of the Democratic Party establishment. He vowed to be the "people’s lawyer" rather than be accountable to the governor (as was the practice up to that time).[13] He was credited with modernizing the office of attorney general during his tenure. One of his successors, Brian Frosh, recalled how Sachs declined to defend Maryland's practice of warehousing individuals with mental health disorders, resulting in their release. He was also remembered for being a staunch advocate for civil rights and electoral reform.[13]

Sachs was an unsuccessful candidate in the 1986 Maryland gubernatorial primary[14] with Parren Mitchell as his running mate,[15] losing to eventual general election winner William Donald Schaefer.[16]

Later careerEdit

Sachs was a partner in the firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr (aka WilmerHale) from 1987 until his retirement in 1999.[17] In 1989 and 1990 Sachs represented Dr. Elizabeth Morgan in a well-publicized international child custody case.[18][19] In 1999 Sachs was an attorney representing Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt in the investigation of allegations that Babbitt lied to Congress.[20]

In 2008, Governor Martin O'Malley appointed Sachs to head an independent review of Maryland State Police infiltration of activist groups that were acting lawfully.[21]

Personal lifeEdit

Sachs was married to Sheila Kleinman Sachs for 58 years until her death in April 2019. She was a divorce attorney and sat on the Baltimore City School Board from 1974 to 1978. Together they had two children: Leon and Elisabeth.[1][22] He died on the morning of January 12, 2022, at his home in Roland Park, Baltimore.[1] He was 87, and suffered from a brief illness in the weeks leading up to his death.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Rasmussen, Frederick N.; Kelly, Jacques (January 12, 2022). "Stephen H. Sachs, who prosecuted the Catonsville Nine and later was Maryland attorney general and law firm partner, dies". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Stephen H. Sachs, MSA SC 3520-1529". Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series). Maryland State Archives. October 15, 2013. Retrieved November 2, 2021.
  3. ^ Ome, Morgan (March 3, 2016). "A legacy of anti-Semitism". The Johns Hopkins News-Letter. Johns Hopkins University. Retrieved November 2, 2021.
  4. ^ "Sachs, Leon". The Baltimore Sun. July 8, 1992. Retrieved November 2, 2021. Jewish Museum of Maryland
  5. ^ "Stephen H. Sachs - Lawyer Profile". Find A Lawyer, Law Firm, Attorney & Legal Services. martindale. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  6. ^ "200 Witness Swearing-In Of Sachs As U.S. Attorney". The Baltimore Sun. June 6, 1967. p. 12. Retrieved September 24, 2019.
  7. ^ Hendricks, Theodore W. (May 13, 1970). "The Interim U.S. Attorney Bench Names Beall To Be". The Baltimore Sun. p. 13. Retrieved September 24, 2019.
  8. ^ "Former Rep. Thomas Johnson of Maryland Dies". The Washington Post. February 3, 1988. Retrieved January 14, 2022.
  9. ^ Drummond, Roscoe (November 25, 1973). "Those Busy Democratic Lawyers". Oxnard Press-Courier. Washington Focus. p. 4. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  10. ^ Tapper, Jake (June 6, 2005). "Son of L. Patrick Gray Says Claims About His Father Are 'Categorically False'". ABC News. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  11. ^ "Our Campaigns - MD Attorney General Race - Nov 07, 1978". Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  12. ^ "Our Campaigns - MD Attorney General Race - Nov 02, 1982". Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  13. ^ a b c Kurtz, Josh (January 12, 2022). "Steve Sachs, former Md. attorney general, dies at age 87". WTOP-FM. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  14. ^ "Candidates for Governor in the 1986 Gubernatorial Primary Election". Maryland State Board of Elections. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  15. ^ "Steve Sachs - Parren Mitchell - One Maryland". Digital Commons. University of Maryland School of Law. January 1986. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  16. ^ "Our Campaigns - MD Governor - D Primary Race - Sep 09, 1986". Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  17. ^ "Stephen H. Sachs, Retired Partner". Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  18. ^ Barringer, Felicity (September 26, 1989). "Prison Releases A Defiant Mother". The New York Times. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  19. ^ Barringer, Felicity (February 25, 1990). "Child's 15,000-Mile Odyssey In a Troubling Custody Case". The New York Times. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  20. ^ Miller, Bill (July 8, 1999). "Babbitt Finishes Grand Jury Testimony". The Washington Post. p. A5. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  21. ^ Peirce, Carolyn (August 1, 2008). "O'Malley picks head of panel probing activist spying". The Washington Examiner. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  22. ^ Kelly, Jacques (April 22, 2019). "Sheila K. Sachs, pioneering Baltimore attorney and influential city school board member, dies". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
Legal offices
Preceded by
George A. Nilson
Attorney General of Maryland
Succeeded by