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

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

His demise was introduced by Harvard Regulation College, the place Mr. Fried taught many hundreds of scholars starting in 1961, amongst them a future Supreme Courtroom 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 house 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 environment prevailing at Harvard Regulation College within the Nineteen Seventies, which, he recalled, included faculty-led Marxist examine teams.

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

In 1985, as solicitor normal — the White Home’s consultant earlier than the Supreme Courtroom — Mr. Fried argued that Roe v. Wade must be overturned. However he later modified his thoughts. Because the excessive court docket’s Republican-appointed supermajority appeared prone to reverse Roe, Mr. Fried wrote in 2021 in an opinion column for The New York Instances, “To overturn Roe now can be an act of constitutional vandalism.”

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

On the Harvard panel final yr, titled “Why I Modified My Thoughts,” Mr. Fried mentioned his mental evolution from conservative to average had additionally been formed by conversations along with his grownup youngsters and grandchildren. “We speak, and I’ve to hear in addition to speak,” he mentioned. “So, in the middle of that, it has modified me.”

Though Mr. Fried testified in favor of the affirmation of John G. Roberts as chief justice in 2005, he turned an outspoken critic of the Roberts court docket 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 court docket by President Invoice Clinton and retired in 2022, prompt in a press release that Mr. Fried was prepared to vary his views due to his innate mental honesty.

“Charles liked concepts,” he mentioned. “He would strive them out on his colleagues and buddies, discarding some, growing others, and all the time listening to the ideas of others.”

Mr. Fried’s tutorial 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 “Proper and Improper” (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 Division underneath his second lawyer normal, William P. Barr.

Mr. Fried and different Republican and conservative attorneys, members of a bunch 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 stress Ukraine — which led to Mr. Trump’s first impeachment.

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

Throughout 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 crew that his conduct was protected by the First Modification “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 Metropolis 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 College in New Jersey, he earned a B.A. in fashionable languages and literature from Princeton in 1956. He studied legislation and philosophy on a Fulbright scholarship on the College of Oxford, then graduated from Columbia Regulation College in 1960.

He was a clerk for Supreme Courtroom Justice John Marshall Harlan II and in 1961, at 26, joined the Harvard Regulation College college. Mr. Breyer was in his top quality, on prison legislation.

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

Aside from his years as solicitor normal, from 1985 to 1989, and a stint as an affiliate justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Courtroom from 1995 to 1999 (he was appointed by his former scholar, Governor Weld), Mr. Fried spent almost 60 years on the Harvard Regulation College college.

In 1993 whereas at Harvard, he argued a case earlier than the Supreme Courtroom, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Prescription drugs, which set requirements for knowledgeable 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 Faculty; 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 all the time do right here, apart from the courses. 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 very same month, in a column in The Harvard Crimson, Mr. Fried defended the college’s president, Claudine Homosexual, after she got here underneath hearth for her response to antisemitism on campus.

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

Dr. Homosexual resigned in January after additional stress and accusations of plagiarism.