Daniel Freed ’48 LAW ’51, Yale Law School Professor Emeritus and an influential scholar of the criminal justice process, died of kidney failure Jan. 17 at New York Hospital surrounded by his family. He was 82.
Freed was an important figure in the development of clinical education at Yale Law School and directed the program until 1972. Throughout his career, he focused on advocating for sentencing procedures that are fairer across the socioeconomic spectrum. He also co-founded the Federal Sentencing Reporter, an academic journal of sentencing law, practice and theory, in 1989.
Peter Freed, his son, recalled his father foremost as a devoted educator, describing him as “a guide on the side” for students rather than an unapproachable, “sage on the stage.” Peter said he encouraged his students to participate in discussions and look at both sides of the issue.
“His signature class was getting judges from Alabama, which is not the most liberal state, to talk about their sentencing process,” he said. “He got all these judges talking to these East Coast intellectuals and it turned into a very vibrant program that by all accounts changed sentencing in Alabama and also really changed the lives of the students in the class.”
Daniel J. Freed was born in New York on May 12, 1927. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he attended Yale, graduating with a bachelor of science in mathematics in 1948. Afterward, he studied at Yale Law School, graduating with a LL.B. in 1951.
Throughout his career, Freed published several influential books, including “Bail in the United States” (co-authored with Patricia Wald LAW ’51), which helped bring about the Bail Reform Act of 1966.
Apart from his teaching and his lifelong effort to make the criminal sentencing process more equitable, Freed had an interest in making metal sculptures. He often traveled to old farms in Vermont to collect abandoned tools and turned them into artistic arrays.
A tribute Web site devoted to Freed gave visitors updates on his illness and provided a forum for many of his former students to post comments thanking him for being an inspiring teacher. So far 55 friends and students have left him messages.
Peter Pope GRD ’70 LAW ’86, a New York-based attorney who took a seminar workshop with Freed as a first year law student, said Freed had taught him how to thoughtfully evaluate arguments, even those with which he disagrees.
“He showed me how a process of respectful negotiation — conversation really — can bridge enormous gaps,” he wrote in an e-mail.
Freed’s colleagues at the Yale Law School praise him for his kindness and his ability to connect with other people.
Professor J.L. Pottenger LAW ’75 said Freed was a “superb listener.” Nancy Gertner GRD ’70 LAW ’71, a U.S. District Court judge in Massachusetts and a visiting lecturer at the Law School, said she admired his work as an educator and activist.
“I will be a Freedian forever,” she wrote in an e-mail.
Freed is survived by his wife Judy, his four children and six grandchildren.