Professor Charles Fried passed away yesterday. Ben Pontz, President of the Federalist Society's Harvard Student Chapter, sent the below announcement to alumni of the chapter, which we reprint with permission.


Good evening,

I write with sad news. Professor Charles Fried, the Harvard Federalist Society's advisor for more than four decades, died earlier today. He was 88 years old.

Professor Fried taught First Amendment through the end of this past fall semester, when he announced his retirement. As we recounted then, Professor Fried began his career teaching Criminal Law; one of his first students was Justice Stephen Breyer. During his tenure, he went on to teach dozens of classes ranging from Roman Law to Appellate Advocacy, write scores of articles and books that have shaped our understanding of the law, and mentor hundreds of students who have gone on to distinguished careers and, equally important to Professor Fried, conducted themselves with the highest levels of civility and charity.

I'll cherish three memories of Professor Fried in particular.

First, while moderating a Federalist Society event with California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu in the fall of 2022, he began by noting that he has always admired the Federalist Society, in no small part because its students "conduct themselves like ladies and gentlemen." 

Second, last spring, when I informed him that Harvard would host the 2024 Federalist Society National Student Symposium, he lit up as he recounted—in vivid detail—his memories of the 2005 symposium, the last time Harvard hosted. In his letter of support, he wrote, "A high spot was when Dean Elena Kagan (now Justice Kagan), welcomed the student Federalists from all over the country. She was greeted with warm applause by the students. Then a big mischievous smile lit up her Democrat face, and she said, 'you are not my people' at which the whole audience was on its feet and applauded her vigorously. That occasion illustrates for me the combination of good nature, good humor, and mutual courtesy, which characterizes our society at its best."

Finally, earlier this fall, he had lunch with several of our 3L board members. I suggested to him that perhaps we could go off campus somewhere easy for him to get to. Absolutely not, he said. We would eat at "a great table" in Caspersen, where the students eat lunch. We met him at the designated time, and we got our lunches and sat down. I realized Professor Fried hadn't joined us, so I went back into the cafeteria and found him looking a bit puzzled. He looked me dead in the eye and asked, "Where do they keep the sushi?" We found the sushi, and as we headed to the cash register, he spotted a giant—and I do mean giant—wedge of chocolate cake that he decided he would have with his sushi (and coconut water). At the end of lunch, he said, "That cake was just marvelous."

To me, Charles Fried embodied the summum bonum of academic life. He was a polymath, and he was a patriot. I'll remember his commitment to decorum, to debate, and to dessert. I hope you'll join me in keeping his family in your prayers, and I hope you'll take some time to reflect on his commitment to the Harvard Federalist Society and to students at Harvard Law School, which he held to the very end.

With equal parts sadness and admiration,

Benjamin Pontz '24
Harvard Federalist Society

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