Doctor in DC; Judge in Fort Spring

Dear Editor:

The US Capitol Physician is responsible for medical issues and care of the members of the House of Representatives and the US Senate, as well as needs of their respective staffs and the general public having business on the Capitol Grounds. This office was created to address the fact that the working hours of the Congress could extend beyond a normal work day as well as the matter of emergency care best addressed by persons who knew the various building plans and the office locations. This office is under the supervision of a physician appointed by the US Navy who has all of the rights granted a medical doctor, except one.

In the District of Columbia, the only person who can pronounce a person dead must be a licensed physician of the District of Columbia and therefore assigned military would not qualify. This is a hard and fast rule always to be observed and brings to memory a story told by my father. “One of the older members of the House of Representatives, as was his usual custom, after doing some legislative chores, would retire to a hide-away in the basement of the Capitol for a nap and should he be needed, they could send someone down with the message. On this particular day, later in the afternoon a vote was coming up and a page was sent to alert the Congressman, who a short time later returned to say that he couldn’t wake him up. The Capitol Physician was called and with members of the Congressman’s office, after a short time, they all knew the obvious and began the preparations to remove the Congressman, placing him on a stretcher covered by a sheet. (My father said that rigor had begun to set in and the form resembled that of a squirrel) and as the removal turned a corner, a newspaper reporter happened on the scene and ask the still present, Capitol Physician, “I heard Congressman (blank) is ill?” To which the Physician replied, “Nonsense! He is as right as rain and he will be back to work tomorrow.”

Turning the page, many of us of a certain age will recall being taught that the laws that so govern our lives and commerce have origins beginning in Common Law, Statutory & Case Law – all under the guidelines and dictates of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. So often left unsaid, was that you have to have a certain amount of “common sense” when you create regulation or you will find yourself going against the current. I would like to submit an example of just such a person, charged with having knowledge of the law and tempered in his decisions due to experience of life and people of this area. Of course, that would be Judge Charles Lobban. There, I have said my piece and will now begin my story.

Some years ago, my wife and I were invited to a wedding in Fort Spring at beautiful hillside rural church. The crowd had gathered and there was a delay in beginning the service as the minister, for some unsaid reason, had canceled out at the last minute. Lucky for the couple (and the guests) an urgent search for a replacement had resulted in Judge Lobban agreeing to be the last minute replacement. He arrived and all the wait put aside, the service went ahead as it should to the relief of all. During the brief reception following the ceremony, l did approach Judge Lobban and mention his kind deed, that I knew was certainly appreciated by everyone. After a short pause, he said to me, “Just before I began, I looked around at the many familiar faces in the audience and remembered having seen so many of them in my courtroom.”

Jack D. Ballard



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