Charles Fried

Charles Fried
Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
In office
September 1995  June 1999
Appointed by William Weld
Preceded by Joseph Nolan
Succeeded by Judith Cowin
Solicitor General of the United States
In office
October 1985  January 20, 1989
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Rex Lee
Succeeded by Ken Starr
Personal details
Born (1935-04-15) April 15, 1935
Prague, Czechoslovakia
(now Czech Republic)
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Anne Summerscale
Children Charles Gregory
Antonia Catherine
Alma mater Princeton University
University of Oxford
Columbia University

Charles Fried (born April 15, 1935)[1] is an American jurist and lawyer. He served as United States Solicitor General under President Ronald Reagan from 1985 to 1989. He is a professor at Harvard Law School and has been a visiting professor at Columbia Law School.

Fried is the author of nine books and over 30 journal articles, and his work has appeared in over a dozen collections.

Early life and education

Fried was born in 1935 in Prague, Czechoslovakia, where his father was an important industrialist and Czech patriot. The Frieds left Czechoslovakia in 1939 to escape the anticipated Nazi persecution of Jews, lived in England for almost two years and came to the United States in 1941 via Montreal, Canada. He and his parents became United States citizens in 1948, after the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia. After graduating from the Lawrenceville School in 1952[2] and receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from Princeton University in 1956—where he was a member of the Princeton Charter Club—Fried attended the University of Oxford, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degree in Jurisprudence, in 1958 and 1960, respectively, and was awarded the Ordronnaux Prize in Law (1958). In 1960, Fried received his Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree from Columbia Law School, where he was a Stone Scholar. Subsequently, he served as law clerk to Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan II.

Fried is admitted to the bars of the United States Supreme Court, United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and numerous U.S. courts of appeals. He argued 25 cases in front of the Supreme Court while in the Solicitor General's office.[3] He has served as counsel to a number of major law firms and clients, and in that capacity argued several major cases, perhaps the most important being Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, both in the Supreme Court and in the Ninth Circuit on remand.

Fried's government service includes a year as Special Assistant to the Attorney General of the United States (1984–85) and a consulting relationship to that office (1983), as well as advisory roles with the Department of Transportation (1981–83) and President Ronald Reagan (1982). In October 1985, Reagan appointed Fried as Solicitor General of the United States. Fried had previously served as Deputy Solicitor General and Acting Solicitor General. As Solicitor General, he represented the Reagan Administration before the Supreme Court in 25 cases. In 1989, when Reagan left office, Fried returned to Harvard Law School.

From September 1995 until June 1999, Fried served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, while teaching constitutional law at Harvard Law School as a Distinguished Lecturer. Prior to joining the court, Fried held the chair of Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence at Harvard Law School. On July 1, 1999, he returned to Harvard Law School as a full-time member of the faculty and Beneficial Professor of Law. He has served on the Harvard Law School faculty since 1961, teaching courses on appellate advocacy, commercial law, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, federal courts, labor law, torts, legal philosophy, and medical ethics.

Fried speaking at Harvard Law School in 2009.

Fried has published extensively. He is the author of nine books and over 30 journal articles, and his work has appeared in over a dozen collections. Unusually for a law professor without a graduate degree in philosophy, he has published significant work in moral and political theory only indirectly related to the law; Right and Wrong, for instance is an impressive general statement of a Kantian position in ethics with affinities with the work of Thomas Nagel, John Rawls, and Robert Nozick. On September 27, 2010, he and Gregory Fried discussed their book Because It Is Wrong: Torture, Privacy, and Presidential Power in the Age of Terror at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. To see the discussion, click the link below.[4] Fried has been Orgain Lecturer at the University of Texas (1982), Tanner Lecturer on Human Values at Stanford University (1981), and Harris Lecturer on Medical Ethics at the Harvard Medical School (1974–75). He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1971–72. Fried is a member of the National Academy of Sciences's Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Law Institute.

Politics and affiliations

In September 2005, Fried testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the nomination of John Roberts to become Chief Justice of the United States. After the nomination of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court, Fried praised Alito as an outstanding judge but dismissed claims that Alito is radical, saying, "He is conservative, yes, but he is not radically conservative like Scalia."[5] Fried testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and wrote a New York Times op-ed in support of Alito, who had served under him in the Solicitor General's office.[6]

On October 24, 2008, despite his previous support for the presidential aspirations of Senator John McCain, Fried announced that he had voted for Senator Barack Obama for President by absentee ballot. Fried cited Senator McCain's selection of Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate as the principal reason for his decision to vote for Senator Obama.[7] As president of the Harvard Law Review in 1990, Obama had published an article Fried wrote criticizing the effects of race-based affirmative action.[8] Fried later told The Wall Street Journal:

I admire Senator McCain and was glad to help in his campaign, and to be listed as doing so; but when I concluded that I must vote for Obama for the reason stated in my letter, I felt it wrong to appear to be recommending to others a vote that I was not prepared to cast myself. So it was more of an erasure than a public affirmation—although obviously my vote meant that I thought that Obama was preferable to McCain-Palin. I do not consider abstention a proper option.[9]

In February 2011, Fried testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of President Obama's health care reform law.[10] When asked by Illinois Senator Richard Durbin to respond to critics of the law's individual mandate who ask: "[I]f the government can require me to buy health insurance, can it require me to have a membership in a gym, or eat vegetables?,” Fried replied:

Yes. We hear that quite a lot. It was put by Judge Vinson, and I think it was put by Professor Barnett in terms of eating your vegetables, and for reasons I set out in my testimony, that would be a violation of the 5th and the 14th Amendment, to force you to eat something. But to force you to pay for something? I don’t see why not. It may not be a good idea, but I don’t see why it’s unconstitutional.[11][12]

Fried is an adviser to the Harvard chapter of the Federalist Society.[13]


See also


  1. Ed, 63rd (1 August 1999). "International Who's Who 2000". Taylor & Francis via Google Books.
  2. "NOTABLE ALUMNI". The Lawrenceville School. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  3. "Prof. Charles Fried, McCain advisor, defects to Obama". Harvard Law Record. 2008-10-16. Retrieved 2008-10-26.
  4. "American Academy of Arts & Sciences".
  5. Fried, Charles; Morning Edition November 1, 2005, National Public Radio
  6. Fried, Charles (2006-01-03). "Samuel Alito, in Context". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-27.
  7. Cass. R. Sunstein, Reagan Appointee and (Recent) McCain Adviser Charles Fried Supports Obama, The New Republic (October 24, 2008), available at
  8. "Obama kept Law Review balanced". The Politico. 2008-06-24. Retrieved 2008-10-27.
  9. Jones, Ashby (2008-10-24). "Harvard Law Prof, Reagan SG, Gives Obama His Vote". The Wall Street Journal Law Blog. Retrieved 2008-10-27.
  10. The Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act" (witness list)
  11. Suderman, Peter (2011-02-03) Harvard Law Prof Tells Senate that Congress Can Make You Buy Broccoli, Reason
  12. Roy, Avik (2011-02-02) Harvard Law’s Fried: A Broccoli Mandate is Constitutional, Forbes
  13. "Harvard Law School Federalist Society". Harvard Federalist Society. 2005. Retrieved 2008-10-27.

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Office of the Solicitor General.

Legal offices
Preceded by
Rex Lee
Solicitor General of the United States
Succeeded by
Ken Starr
Preceded by
Joseph Nolan
Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Succeeded by
Judith Cowin
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