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January 19, 2010

A sad sentencing in memoriam: Professor Daniel J. Freed

I am so sad to have to report the passing of a true giant in the field of sentencing law and policy, Professor Dan Freed.  This Yale Law School notice provides the details and some fitting accounts of some aspects of his extraordinary contributions:

Yale Law School Professor Emeritus Daniel J. Freed ’51, a pioneer in the criminal justice process and a key figure in the development of clinical education at the Law School, died Sunday, January 17, 2010, in New York.  He was 82.  Freed was Clinical Professor Emeritus of Law and Its Administration, specializing in sentencing and criminal justice administration. He died of renal and congestive heart failure.

“Dan Freed was a unique scholar, reformer, and social activist,” said Yale Law School Dean Robert Post '77.  “He had an unmatched capacity to bring together people on all sides of controversial issues to create thoughtful, reflective, productive and collaborative working groups.  He spent a lifetime seeking to realize his goal of making the criminal justice system fairer and more effective.  He succeeded to a remarkable degree.  We shall miss him deeply.”...

He was appointed to the Yale Law School faculty in July 1969 to oversee the development of the Law School’s clinical program, which he directed until 1972.  He was one of the first professors in the country to conduct workshops and seminars on criminal sentencing, which at the time was discretionary and indeterminate.  From 1972 to 1987, he ran the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Program in Criminal Justice at Yale Law School and from 1987 to 1994, the Criminal Sentencing Program.  In 1989, he co-founded the Federal Sentencing Reporter, a law review dedicated to a sustained and accessible conversation about sentencing law and policy among scholars, judges, practitioners, and policymakers.  He was a trustee of the Vera Institute of Justice and received the Glenn R. Winters award from the American Judges Association in 1992.  He retired from Yale Law School in 1994 but continued to teach as a professorial lecturer in law until 2006.

“For four decades, Daniel Freed examined and exposed the parts of the criminal justice process that were, when he began his work, most opaque and basically unregulated by law: bail and sentencing,” said Lafayette S. Foster Professor of Law Kate Stith.  “He was one of the early theorists and proponents of sentencing guidelines, now commonplace, though he sought guidelines that left considerable room for individualized sentencing.”

“Dan’s work bridged the gap between judges and academics, practitioners and politicians, policymakers and the public,” said U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner ’71 of the District of Massachusetts.  “In his seminars on sentencing, the conferences he organized and the articles he wrote, he brought together representatives of all sides of the criminal justice debate, in many cases for the very first time.  And he challenged them to create a system that was at once principled and just. His loss — as a voice in this discussion, as a mentor for many of us (who consider ourselves ‘Freedians’), and as a leader — is irreplaceable.”...

Professor Freed’s books include The Release, Control, and Detention of Accused Juvenile Offenders between Arrest and Disposition (with Timothy Terrell, 1980), and The Nonsystem of Criminal Justice (1969). His Bail in the United States, co-authored in 1964 with Patricia Wald ’51, is widely seen as the basis for the groundbreaking Bail Reform Act of 1966....

Professor Freed’s family has asked that contributions be made to the Brattleboro Museum Garden Project in Honor of Dan Freed (Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, 10 Vernon Street, Brattleboro, VT 05301).

I suspect I may speak for hundreds, if not tens of thousands, of "Freedians" when I say that Dan's passing is a blow to justice and a reminder of how passion and insight can be combined with humility and grace in a lifetime commitment to improve the administration of justice.  I had the good fortune and honor to get to know Dan and to work with him on the Federal Sentencing Reporter over the last two decades, and I only hope that my efforts and energies in the field of sentencing reform might serve as an on-going tribute to Dan's greatness.

January 19, 2010 at 09:17 AM | Permalink


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Did he have anything to say about victims of crime?

His intellectual offspring are a real trip, heartless lawyer rent seekers who want to empty the prisons onto minority neighborhoods.

This is disgusting: the smallness of the intellectual community setting the agenda, its foam at the mouth hatred of our country, its excessive influence, and the exclusion of the owners of the law from any policy influence.

The problem with this elitist approach? Incompetence explaining total failure of every goal of the criminal law. Lawyers know nothing about nothing. They know their self-interest. They do not know criminals, nor crime victims. Yet they get to set policy that will have wide and deep impact. They do not even consult experts in the relevant subject, let alone the public. They have phony commentary periods in rule setting. These comments are ignored, and the results are predetermined by the arrogance of self-dealing total incompetents.

When the public screams, and they set up successful mandatory guidelines, taking away the discretion of biased criminal lovers on the bench, owing their jobs to criminals, these are knocked down.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 20, 2010 1:59:30 AM

Personally, I think that it's sad when a great mind passes on. The intellect, experience, and life lessons may have gone, but hopefully those who have been able to learn from him and work along side him as colleagues would share that information with the next generation. Yes, I'm sure that all of Prof. Freed's legal battles have been documented from personal injury to the system itself. However, I suspect that there is no substitute for being there while it was happening. That is something that can't be captured: Even on film.

Posted by: Poughkeepsie New York Personal Injury Lawyer | Jan 20, 2010 12:50:30 PM

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