Sol J. Friedman

[Age 89] Member of the House of Delegates and District Court judge ruled city's blue laws unconstitutional

April 08, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,Jacques Kelly

Judge Sol J. Friedman, a retired Baltimore District Court judge and former member of the House of Delegates, died of heart failure Thursday at Atrium Village in Owings Mills. He was 89.

A protege of James H. "Jack" Pollack, the erstwhile political boss of West and Northwest Baltimore, he was elected to the House of Delegates five times before he became a judge. In 1973, his old friend, then-Gov. Marvin Mandel, appointed him to the bench. Judge Friedman presided over a highly publicized peeping Tom case in 1975, and in 1979 he joined District Judge Jerome Robinson in ruling that Baltimore's blue laws were unconstitutional.

"I always had the impression that he never forgot what it was like to be a practicing lawyer. He was a very patient person to appear before," said Chief Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr. of the Maryland Court of Appeals, who prosecuted and tried cases before him as a young lawyer. "He always allowed lawyers to try their cases, was never short-tempered, and they appreciated that," Judge Murphy said. "He was a very collegial colleague and fine man."

Judge Friedman was born in Baltimore, the son of a tailor, and raised on Park Heights Terrace.

As a teenager, he worked in his father's business, Regal Cleaners, at Baltimore and Howard streets, not far from the Hippodrome Theatre.

"A lot of theater people came in to have their clothes cleaned and pressed," said his daughter, Amy Friedman Cecil of Los Angeles. "He pressed Frank Sinatra's bow ties and waited on the Andrews Sisters, Harry James, Carmen Miranda and Jackie E. Leonard, among others."

A City College graduate, Judge Friedman earned his law degree from the University of Baltimore in 1944.

He had served as an investigator and unit chief in the enforcement section of the Office of Price Administration and later was an auditor with the Registrar of Wills of Baltimore City before establishing a solo general law practice.

Judge Friedman was first elected to the House of Delegates from the 4th District in 1954. In 1958, he moved to the 5th District, from which he was elected four more times.

Judge Friedman and Mr. Mandel were members of a group that broke away from the Pollack political machine. After Mr. Mandel became governor, he appointed his friend to the District Court, where Judge Friedman carved out areas of expertise. He remained on the bench until 1991, when he reached mandatory retirement age and stepped down.

"He prides himself on his work in the area of workmen's compensation - a field in which he has considerable practice - and in recodifying the state's motor vehicle laws," said a 1973 profile in The Sun.

A "small man who favors conservative, slightly mod clothes, Mr. Friedman has short-cropped gray wavy hair. He is not known for flaming rhetoric on the floor but favors the committee rooms where many of the decisions are made in the state capitol," the profile said.

During his judicial tenure, Judge Friedman had several notable cases, including the 1975 peeping Tom case in which James Rand Agnew, son of former Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, was convicted of trespassing. Because he had no prior criminal record, the verdict was struck and Mr. Agnew was granted probation before judgment.

"He was a wonderful person, a very solid legislator and a good lawyer," said retired Judge Edgar P. Silver, a longtime friend.

"During his career he had played a part in making laws and later applying them," he said. "He was always even-handed and treated all with respect. He was a well-balanced judge who took each case as they came."

In his retirement, Judge Friedman continued working for several years as a substitute judge.

"He was very generous with his time in this regard," Judge Murphy said.

Judge Friedman was a member of the Elks, the Masons, B'nai B'rith and the Knights of Pythias. He resided in Northwest Baltimore for much of his life, but he spent the past six years at Atrium Village in Owings Mills.

He was a founding member of the old Bonnie View Country Club and was a member of Beth El Congregation.

An avid sports fan, one of Judge Friedman's fondest memories was attending the 1958 Colts championship game against the Giants in New York City.

Services were held Sunday.

Also surviving are a son, Bruce E. Friedman of Reisterstown; a sister, Shirley Lipman of Baltimore; and four grandsons. A marriage to the former Hilda Feld ended in divorce.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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