Philip Fos­ter runs for Tal­bot Or­phans’ Court

Sunday Star - - OBITUARIES - By CHRIS POLK cpolk@star­dem.com Fol­low me on Twit­ter @chrisp_s­tar­dem. Email me at cpolk@star­dem.com.

EAS­TON — Philip Carey Fos­ter is the only at­tor­ney run­ning for a seat on the Tal­bot County Or­phans’ Court, and that means he has a skill set that is uniquely valu­able, he said in an in­ter­view early last week.

“First of all, the big mys­tery is, what is the Or­phans’ Court?” he said. “I get asked that ev­ery­where I go.”

The Or­phans’ Court in Mary­land is a pro­bate court that pre­sides over the ad­min­is­tra­tion of es­tates.

In Tal­bot, three judges sit on the court and lis­ten to cases that could in­volve wills or lack of wills, per­sonal rep­re­sen­ta­tives, rel­a­tives, and other de­tails that may need to be con­sid­ered af­ter some­one dies.

The term “or­phans’ court” is an an­cient one, and refers to courts cre­ated in Eng­land to take care of wid­ows and chil­dren af­ter a death, Fos­ter said.

Fos­ter is one of five candidates on the bal­lot which in­cludes busi­ness­men and re­tired clergy.

He is a grad­u­ate of Eas­ton High School who at­tended Wooster Col­lege in Ohio, then law school at Van­der­bilt Univer­sity.

He got out of school just as the Viet­nam War ended, but spent a few years state­side in the Army, be­ing dis­charged as a cap­tain. Af­ter law school, he worked at the U.S. Depart­ment of the In­te­rior for a while, then came back home to the Eastern Shore.

In Tal­bot, he worked his way up in the state’s at­tor­ney’s of­fice, mov­ing from as­sis­tant state’s at­tor­ney to deputy state’s at­tor­ney, then state’s at­tor­ney over the course of 15 years.

“I thought I had dealt with some pretty raw hu­man emo­tions, but then I started pro­bat­ing wills,” he said. “Some­times the emo­tions that ac­com­pany that can be sur­pris­ingly in­tense.”

“It’s a vul­ner­a­ble time for peo­ple and some­times within fam­i­lies there are an­cient mis­trusts from child­hood that sur­face,” he said.

“I’m a trained me­di­a­tor,” Fos­ter said. “And I think one of the things the Or­phans’ Court has tried to do very suc­cess­fully over the years is to me­di­ate with the fam­ily to the ex­tent that they can and ex­plain what’s hap­pen­ing.”

He said in a reg­u­lar court­room the cases move so quickly that some­times those in­volved aren’t re­ally sure what has hap­pened. Peo­ple leave, he said, some­times very con­fused.

“But with the Or­phans’ Court I think there’s that ex­tra step, that, okay, once you’ve made your de­ci­sion, tr ying to ex­plain it to the par­ties,” he said. “I’m not say­ing that ever ybody will leave happy, but you’ve got to try.”

Along with his years in the State’s At­tor­ney’s Of­fice, Fos­ter has rep­re­sented the Mid-Shore in the Mary­land House of Del­e­gates (1989-1991) and served on the Tal­bot County Coun­cil for 12 years (1998-2010). Three of those years he was pres­i­dent and three years he was vice pres­i­dent.

He has taught crim­i­nal law, con­sti­tu­tional law, le­gal pro­ce­dure and busi­ness law as an ad­junct fac­ulty mem­ber at Chesapeake Col­lege.

Through it all, he was al­lowed to con­tinue his work as a gen­eral prac­tice lawyer which means he has rep­re­sented clients for a wide va­ri­ety of rea­sons. He said when he was younger, the cases tended to be in lit­i­ga­tion, crim­i­nal, do­mes­tic, law­suits and the like. In more re­cent years he has worked more pre­par­ing wills and with es­tates.

“Tal­bot County has the fifth high­est num­ber of high-value es­tates in the state,” he said. “You’ve got Mont­gomery, Bal­ti­more County, Bal­ti­more City, Prince Ge­orge’s County — the next is Tal­bot. It’s not Howard, it’s not Anne Arun­del.”

“These are the es­tates where you are go­ing to have a lot of money in­volved, a lot of is­sues at stake, peo­ple hir­ing lawyers on each side to fight over whether the will should be ac­cepted or not ac­cepted,” he said. He named a host of other is­sues that are typ­i­cal in the set­tling of a large es­tate.

Fos­ter feels to have one at­tor­ney on the court will be very help­ful in terms of re­search­ing cases, le­gal ter­mi­nol­ogy, what a ci­ta­tion is and the con­duct­ing of hear­ings.

“I think there are other skills that are help­ful on the Or­phans’ Court and I don’t dis­miss them at all,” he said. “The com­bi­na­tion of my le­gal train­ing and the oth­ers from other walks of life will cre­ate a bet­ter Or­phans’ Court and pro­duce bet­ter de­ci­sions.”

Fos­ter has a long his­tory of com­mu­nity ser vice in Tal­bot County. His mem­ber­ships in­clude the Elks, St. An­drews So­ci­ety, Amer­i­can Le­gion, Tal­bot County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, 38 years in Ro­tary and he has been on the boards of lo­cal United Fund, Tal­bot County Men­tal Health and Drug Abuse Coun­cil, Board of Visi­tors of Kanuga Con­fer­ences, Eas­ton Heart Drive Fund, and the list goes on and on.

One of the ac­tiv­i­ties he has en­joyed most is serv­ing as a soc­cer coach.

Fos­ter said they did not have soc­cer at Eas­ton High School when he was a stu­dent, so when he was asked to coach, he had to learn it all from scratch.

He ended up coach­ing soc­cer for 27 years, in­clud­ing for mid­dle school stu­dents, at Colonel Richard­son High School, Sts. Peter and Paul, Gun­ston and oth­ers. He was the first pres­i­dent of the Tal­bot Youth Soc­cer League.

“I love govern­ment. I love ser­vice,” he said. “And thats re­ally what my life is about, it’s pub­lic ser­vice. So you ask what I do — that’s what I do.”

“Other peo­ple gar­den, do wood­carv­ing. I re­ally ad­mire peo­ple who have those skills,” Fos­ter said. “But for me, my sat­is­fac­tion comes out of pub­lic ser­vice.”

Vot­ers have their choice of three out of five candidates for Or­phans’ Court on the Tal­bot County bal­lot, in­clud­ing Fos­ter, in­cum­bents Paul Car­roll and Will Howard, David Wheeler and Joel Mar­cus John­son.

Even though candidates are listed on the bal­lot as Repub­li­can and Demo­crat, Fos­ter says that is a tra­di­tional des­ig­na­tion that has come down through the years, and is re­ally mean­ing­less, since there is no par­ti­san as­pect to the Or­phans’ Court.

“You’ve got to look at your du­ties and your re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and be fair and be just,” he said. “And that’s what I would strive to do. It’s a phi­los­o­phy of judg­ing. Its not a plat­form.”

“A place that I could be of ser vice is the Or­phans’ Court be­cause I think I could bring the le­gal train­ing piece to the group,” he said. “And they will be bring­ing things as well. I don’t have an ex­clu­sive con­tri­bu­tion, I have a unique one.

“And if the vot­ers see fit to en­trust me to this of­fice then I am go­ing to ex­e­cute it con­sci­en­tiously just as I al­ways have,” Fos­ter said.

Early vot­ing con­tin­ues at the Eas­ton Fire Hall, 315 Aurora Park Drive, through Thurs­day, Novem­ber 1 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

Elec­tion Day is Tues­day, Novem­ber 6. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

PHILIP CAREY FOS­TER

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