An Alum and Judge Had Big Impact on Several CLS Faculty
Judge Friedman ’40 Has Enduring Influence on Current Columbia Law Faculty
By Erin St. John Kelly
March 3, 2008 (NEW YORK) – Columbia Law School, and the bar, owe a debt to one Mrs. Julia Friedman formerly of Riverside Drive, New York City. In about 1936, the horror she felt at her son’s suggestion that he might like to be a journalist (to her mind: hard drinking, cigar-smoking and fedora-wearing) and a fortuitous dinner arranged with a lawyer uncle set Daniel Mortimer Friedman (left) on a long and distinguished law career that began at Columbia Law School in 1937 and flourishes still as a senior judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C.
Perhaps unbeknownst to Mrs. Friedman, her husband Henry was raising their son on a diet of political cartoons, an interest that holds him still, and has helped to hone a keen eye and inquiring mind that appreciates the succinct. For 30 years Judge Daniel M. Friedman, ‘40, has been exactly the kind of judge one would hope to find on the bench: warm and wise, exacting and expedient. He embodies a tradition in the law that many fear is fading: a first-rate lawyer making his whole career in government.
“He’s the best of a disappearing species,” said Richard B. Stone, Columbia Law School’s Wilbur H. Friedman Professor of Law, who worked with the judge at the Solicitor General’s Office early in his career. “He is also one of the few government lawyers whose talent was recognized and rewarded with a top judicial post.”
The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has nationwide jurisdiction in a variety of areas including trade, contracts, patents, trademarks and veterans benefits. When three of its judges came to hear arguments at Columbia Law School last October 4th, they said it was to honor their colleague Friedman. They said it was a privilege to be at his alma mater. Friedman, who graduated from the Law School 68 years ago, continues have a profound and compelling impact on his alma mater and the court.
Peter L. Strauss, Columbia’s Betts Professor of Law and another alumnus of the Solicitor General’s Office, gave the lunchtime address when the court was here and later shared what Daniel Friedman had meant to him:
“No writing mentor meant more to my development as a legal writer than Danny Friedman. He was gentle, understated, wry and absolutely to the point about the obligations of candor and precision, about what would be persuasive, what excess, what mere rhetorical flourish,” Strauss said. “When it came to considering a future academic home, knowing where Danny had been trained made clear what a good choice Columbia would be.
I came to the Solicitor General’s office trailing experiences that I was confident had made me a superb legal writer: editor-in-chief of my law review; clerkships with demanding judges writing and rewriting opinions and speeches; two years teaching and writing about law in an English-as-a-second-language environment (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) that demanded concision and clarity,” Strauss said. “How quickly it became apparent how much I had to learn!”
Judge Friedman, 92, has been on the bench since President Jimmy Carter appointed him to be Chief Judge of the United States Court of Claims in 1978. Friedman moved onto the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, when it was formed in a merger of the U.S. Court of Claims and the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals in 1982. He has authored more than 500 opinions.
“He is incredibly careful both in his thinking and his writing,” said Columbia Law School Professor Kent Greenawalt, another Friedman protégé from the Solicitor General’s office. “And a model for anyone who engages in legal practice and takes the job seriously. And he’s a very nice person.”
Judge Friedman’s career in government started in 1942 on the legal staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). During World War II he served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946 and then rejoined the SEC until 1951. He served in the Appellate Section, Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice from 1951 to 1959. From 1959 to 1978 he was second and then first assistant to the Solicitor General. He argued 80 cases before the Supreme Court, many of them anti-trust. “I have a memory of being battered around!” the judge said with a laugh, of his appearances before the high court.
These days, as a judge with senior status, Friedman hears three to six cases a month. “The judge reads every piece of paper associated with the case,” said his law clerk Tanya Mazur. That paper is stacked on almost all available surfaces in his office, in many piles, many feet high with the judge’s handwritten notes on lined paper on the top, all of it bound together with rubber bands. “Every once in a while you can write something that can make a difference in the law,” he said, apprising his work.
“I always enjoy an SEC question,” the judge said while noting that many of the court’s cases frequently involve the cutting edge of technology. He believes that if a patent case is well presented, the technology will be explained in simple terms. “Any reasonably intelligent lawyer should be able to understand it even if it’s in a field he or she has no expertise in,” he said. “Less is more. Shorter is more convincing.”
The judge also “rides the circuit” hearing cases in the Ninth and Sixth Circuits, always doing more than the one day required of him, insisting instead on two days, “to give the government their money’s worth.” “All of the courts of appeals are overworked,” he said. “The number of appeals are increasing more rapidly than judges are being appointed.”
Mazur described the unfailing mentor she found in her clerkship. “This is the best job I’ve ever had in my life,” she said. “He’s so respectful and so great and wants to hear my opinion, if I miss something he uses it as a teaching opportunity.” After hearing an argument, the judge discusses with her what the attorney did well and what they could do better, in both their presentation and their briefs. (He also requires that her that dog Roo visit chambers for the day at least once a month.)
“I think law school should train people to be good lawyers, to write in plain simple English and to read, interpret and draft statutes,” Friedman said recently. “Whatever I have accomplished, I can credit Columbia Law School for giving me the proper education.” He trusts that education to be stellar still. His next law clerk is Neal Hannan, Columbia Law School Class of 2008.