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Charles Fried, Legal Scholar Who Broke With Conservatives, Dies at 88

Charles Fried, Legal Scholar Who Broke With Conservatives, Dies at 88


Charles Fried, a conservative authorized scholar who as President Ronald Reagan’s solicitor normal argued in opposition to abortion rights and affirmative motion earlier than the Supreme Court — however who later rejected the conservative authorized motion’s rightward march, calling the present excessive courtroom “reactionary” — died on Tuesday at his residence in Cambridge, Mass. He was 88.

His demise was introduced by Harvard Law School, the place Mr. Fried taught many 1000’s of scholars starting in 1961, amongst them a future Supreme Court justice, Stephen G. Breyer, and a future Massachusetts governor, William F. Weld.

Mr. Fried (pronounced “freed”) was a son of Jewish dad and mom who fled Czechoslovakia in 1939 to flee Naziism, and whose hopes of returning residence after the conflict have been thwarted by the descent of the Iron Curtain. He traced his political conservatism each to that background and to the hard-left ambiance prevailing at Harvard Law School within the Seventies, which, he recalled, included faculty-led Marxist research teams.

He grew to become “fairly allergic to the left,” Mr. Fried mentioned at a law school panel final 12 months. “And that allergy took a type the place I wished to be slightly in opposition. And what higher approach to be in opposition than to enter the Reagan administration?”

In 1985, as solicitor general — the White House’s consultant earlier than the Supreme Court — Mr. Fried argued that Roe v. Wade needs to be overturned. But he later modified his thoughts. As the excessive courtroom’s Republican-appointed supermajority appeared prone to reverse Roe, Mr. Fried wrote in 2021 in an opinion column for The New York Times, “To overturn Roe now could be an act of constitutional vandalism.”

His reasoning was {that a} 1992 case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, had extra firmly established the appropriate to abortion than when he opposed it for the Reagan White House.

At the Harvard panel final 12 months, titled “Why I Changed My Mind,” Mr. Fried mentioned his mental evolution from conservative to reasonable had additionally been formed by conversations along with his grownup kids and grandchildren. “We speak, and I’ve to pay attention in addition to speak,” he mentioned. “So, in the midst of that, it has modified me.”

Although Mr. Fried testified in favor of the affirmation of John G. Roberts as chief justice in 2005, he became an outspoken critic of the Roberts court over its rulings limiting voting rights, labor unions and marketing campaign finance reform, in addition to its refusal to restrict blatant partisan gerrymandering.

He referred to as these selections “reactionary, not conservative,” within the classical sense of conservatism as respect for precedent and a perception in change that’s incremental and never radical.

Justice Breyer, who was appointed to the excessive courtroom by President Bill Clinton and retired in 2022, prompt in a press release that Mr. Fried was keen to alter his views due to his innate mental honesty.

“Charles liked concepts,” he mentioned. “He would attempt them out on his colleagues and associates, discarding some, creating others, and at all times listening to the ideas of others.”

Mr. Fried’s educational pursuits included how ethical and political philosophy make clear authorized issues; he wrote a number of books on the subject, together with “An Anatomy of Values” (1970) and “Right and Wrong” (1978).

A longtime Republican who for 40 years suggested the Harvard chapter of the conservative Federalist Society, Mr. Fried was an particularly harsh critic of President Donald J. Trump’s disdain for courts and the legislation, and of the Justice Department below his second legal professional normal, William P. Barr.

Mr. Fried and different Republican and conservative attorneys, members of a gaggle referred to as Checks & Balances, castigated Mr. Barr publicly for defending Mr. Trump’s makes an attempt to hinder the investigation of Russian interference within the 2016 election and, in 2019, to strain Ukraine — which led to Mr. Trump’s first impeachment.

“The individuals who declare they’re conservatives at this time are demanding loyalty to this utterly lawless, ignorant, foul-mouthed president,” Mr. Fried told The Times in 2019. He disclosed in The Boston Globe in 2016 that he planned to vote for Hillary Clinton.

During Mr. Trump’s second impeachment trial, for inciting an rebel on Jan. 6, 2021, Mr. Fried joined different constitutional attorneys in a press release calling claims by Mr. Trump’s protection group that his conduct was protected by the First Amendment “legally frivolous.”

Charles Fried was born Karel Fried in Prague on April 15, 1935, to Antony and Martha Fried. His father was a senior vp at Skoda Works, a heavy equipment and arms producer. The household fled to England — “with Hitler as my journey agent,” as Mr. Fried as soon as put it — the place they lived for 2 years earlier than relocating to New York City in 1941.

(When the Communist authorities in Prague collapsed in 1989 through the Velvet Revolution, Mr. Fried joined different Western attorneys in advising the Czech authorities on a brand new structure.)

After graduating from the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, he earned a B.A. in trendy languages and literature from Princeton in 1956. He studied legislation and philosophy on a Fulbright scholarship on the University of Oxford, then graduated from Columbia Law School in 1960.

He was a clerk for Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan II and in 1961, at 26, joined the Harvard Law School school. Mr. Breyer was in his top notch, on felony legislation.

The Reagan administration recruited Mr. Fried when he was 50, partly on the energy of problem papers he had written for the Reagan marketing campaign of 1980 about, amongst different issues, find out how to voice opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment in a presidential debate.

Except for his years as solicitor normal, from 1985 to 1989, and a stint as an affiliate justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court from 1995 to 1999 (he was appointed by his former pupil, Governor Weld), Mr. Fried spent practically 60 years on the Harvard Law School school.

In 1993 whereas at Harvard, he argued a case earlier than the Supreme Court, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, which set requirements for skilled scientific testimony in federal courts.

His survivors embody his spouse, Anne Summerscale, whom he married in 1959; a son, Gregory, a philosophy professor at Boston College; and a daughter, Antonia Fried, a psychologist.

Mr. Fried introduced his retirement in December, although he mentioned he deliberate to proceed weighing in on the authorized and political problems with the day.

“What do I plan subsequent?” he mentioned. “What I at all times do right here, apart from the lessons. I write, I’m going to workshops, I learn my colleagues’ work, I touch upon it, after which I write my very own work.”

That similar month, in a column in The Harvard Crimson, Mr. Fried defended the college’s president, Claudine Gay, after she got here below fireplace for her response to antisemitism on campus.

He continued to defend her after the assaults broadened to incorporate Dr. Gay’s scholarly document. He instructed The Times that he discounted accusations of plagiarism against Dr. Gay as a result of they have been a part of an “excessive right-wing assault on elite establishments.”

Dr. Gay resigned in January after additional strain and accusations of plagiarism.

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