In Memoriam: Daniel Freed, Fought for Criminal Sentencing Guidelines

Yale Law School professor emeritus and alumnus Daniel J. Freed, a pioneer in the criminal justice process and a key figure in the development of clinical education at the Law School, died Jan. 17 in New York. He was 82.

Freed was clinical professor emeritus of law and its administration, specializing in sentencing and criminal justice administration.

“Dan Freed was a unique scholar, reformer and social activist,” said Law School Dean Robert Post. “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.”

Freed was born in New York on May 12, 1927. After serving with the U.S. Navy, he earned a B.S. in 1948 from Yale and an LL.B. in 1951 from Yale Law School, where he was a Note editor of the Yale Law Journal.

He was appointed to the Yale Law School faculty in July 1969 to oversee the development of the 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 Kate Stith, the Lafayette S. Foster Professor of Law. “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.”

Before coming to Yale Law School, Freed served with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for 10 years, from 1959 to 1969. At the time of his departure from DOJ, he was director of the Office of Criminal Justice, an office he joined as associate director when it was established in 1964 by Attorney General Robert Kennedy. From 1952 to 1959, he worked in private practice at the Washington D.C. firm of Bergson & Borkland. He served as an investigator for the Preparedness Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee from 1951 to 1952.

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, is widely seen as the basis for the groundbreaking Bail Reform Act of 1966.

He is survived by his wife, Judy; son Jonathan and his wife, Lauren; son Peter and his wife, Talya; daughter Amy; daughter Emily and her husband, Felix; brothers Norman and Harvey; and six grandchildren: Ben, Nik, Madison, Julian, Teo and Chloe. A memorial service for Freed will be held at Yale Law School in the spring. His 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 St., Brattleboro, VT 05301).

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