Henry Friendly

Henry Jacob Friendly (July 3, 1903 – March 11, 1986) was a prominent judge in the United States, who sat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1959 through 1974 (including service as chief judge from 1971 to 1973) and in senior status until his death in 1986.

Henry Friendly
Judge Henry Friendly
Senior Judge of United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
In office
April 15, 1974 – March 11, 1986
Chief Judge of United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
In office
July 20, 1971 – July 3, 1973
Preceded by J. Edward Lumbard
Succeeded by Irving Kaufman
Judge of United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
In office
September 9, 1959 – April 15, 1974
Appointed by Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded by Harold Medina
Succeeded by Ellsworth Van Graafeiland
Personal details
Born Henry Jacob Friendly
July 3, 1903
Elmira, New York
Died March 11, 1986 (aged 82)
New York, New York
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Sophie Stern
Children 3
Education Harvard University (BA, LLB)

Before the bench

Friendly graduated from Harvard College in 1923 and received his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1927.[1] It is widely rumored that Friendly graduated with the highest grade point average ever attained (before or since) at Harvard Law School, but confirmation of this claim is difficult to find, and the claim is sometimes also made for U.S. Supreme Court Justices Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter.

On June 23, 1927, the Harvard Crimson reported that Friendly was the first Harvard Law graduate to receive a degree summa cum laude.[2] Frankfurter, as a professor at Harvard Law School, sent his student Friendly to work as a clerk for Justice Louis D. Brandeis of the United States Supreme Court.[3] Friendly then entered private practice in New York City from 1928 to 1959,[4] and was a founding partner of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, where his law partners included George W. Ball and Melvin Steen. He served as vice president and general counsel of Pan American World Airways in New York City from 1946 to 1959.[4]

Judicial service

Friendly was appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to a seat on the Second Circuit vacated by Harold Raymond Medina.[4] Friendly's appointment had been endorsed on the basis of merit by several prominent judges and lawyers, including Judge Learned Hand.

Friendly was confirmed by the United States Senate on September 9, 1959, and received his commission the next day.[4] He served as the chief judge of the Second Circuit from 1971 to 1973.

Friendly's opinions for the Second Circuit were considered scholarly and of superior quality; many are still cited today, particularly in the field of securities law.

Friendly received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977.


Friendly took his own life at age 82 on March 11, 1986, in his Park Avenue apartment in New York City. Police said they found three notes in the apartment, one addressed to his resident maid and two unaddressed notes. In all three notes, the judge talked about his distress at his wife's death, his declining health and his failing eyesight, according to a police spokesman. His wife, the former Sophie S. Stern, had died a year and four days earlier. They had been married for 55 years.[5]


In a ceremony following Friendly's death, then-Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger said, "In my 30 years on the bench, I have never known a judge more qualified to sit on the Supreme Court." At the same ceremony, Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall called Friendly "a man of the law."[6]

In a letter to the editor of The New York Times following Friendly's obituary, 2nd Circuit Judge Jon O. Newman called Friendly "quite simply the pre-eminent appellate judge of his era" who "authored the definitive opinions for the nation in each area of the law that he had occasion to consider."[7]

In a statement after Friendly's death, Judge Wilfred Feinberg, the 2nd Circuit's chief judge at the time, called Friendly "one of the greatest Federal judges in the history of the Federal bench."[7]

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner described Friendly as "the most distinguished judge in this country during his years on the bench."[7]

Harvard Law School has a professorship named after Friendly. Paul C. Weiler, a Canadian constitutional law scholar, held it from 1993 to 2006;[8] William J. Stuntz, a scholar of criminal law and procedure, held it from 2006 until his death in March 2011.[9] The professorship is currently held by Carol S. Steiker, a specialist in criminal justice policy and capital punishment.[10]

The Federal Bar Council awarded Friendly a Certificate of Distinguished Judicial Service posthumously in 1986.[11]

The American Law Institute has an award named in memory of Friendly and endowed by his former law clerks.[12]


Friendly's wife of 55 years died a year before his suicide.[13] He was survived by a son and two daughters.[3]

Notable former law clerks


  1. ^ "Biographical Directory of Federal Judges". Federal Judicial Center. Retrieved 16 May 2010.
  2. ^ No Writer Attributed (1927-06-23). "Over 200 Undergraduates Gain Honors in Graduation Awards | News | The Harvard Crimson". Thecrimson.com. Retrieved 2012-12-15.
  3. ^ a b "From Learned Hand To Henry Friendly". New York Times. 1986-03-24. Retrieved 2010-03-08.
  4. ^ a b c d "Judges of the United States Courts". Fjc.gov. Archived from the original on 2009-05-13. Retrieved 2010-03-08.
  5. ^ Norman, Michael (1986-03-12). "Henry J. Friendly, Federal Judge in Court of Appeals, is Dead at 82 - Free Preview - The New York Times". Select.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2010-03-08.
  6. ^ http://www.lexis.com/research/retrieve/frames?_m=c2c55cb12712faecf0c5b50798918330&docnum=18&_fmtstr=FULL&_startdoc=1&wchp=dGLbVzz-zSkAt&_md5=0c88b69ff076c882e26e91fd9d5efdae
  7. ^ a b c "From Learned Hand To Henry Friendly". The New York Times. March 24, 1986.
  8. ^ "Paul C. Weiler". Law.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2010-03-08.
  9. ^ "William J. Stuntz". Law.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2010-03-08.
  10. ^ http://hls.harvard.edu/faculty/directory/10840/Steiker
  11. ^ "The New York Times: Search for 'Honors for 4 Judges And Ex-Prosecutor'". New York Times. 1986-11-27. Retrieved 2010-03-08.
  12. ^ The American Law Institute - The Henry J. Friendly Medal
  13. ^ "From Learned Hand To Henry Friendly". New York Times. 1986-03-24. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  14. ^ [1] Archived December 27, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ "Georgetown Law - Full time Faculty". Law.georgetown.edu. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  16. ^ "Berkeley Law - Faculty Profiles". Law.berkeley.edu. Archived from the original on 2007-06-11. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  17. ^ [2] Archived April 21, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ "Yale Law School | Bruce Ackerman". Law.yale.edu. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  19. ^ a b "U.S. Court of Appeals - D.C. Circuit - Home". Cadc.uscourts.gov. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  20. ^ [3] Archived September 2, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ "US Bankruptcy Court - Southern District of New York". Nysb.uscourts.gov. 2005-06-09. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  22. ^ [4]
  23. ^ "Debevoise & Plimpton LLP | Lawyers | Frederick T. Davis". Debevoise.com. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  24. ^ [5]
  25. ^ "FJC". Fjc.gov. Archived from the original on 2009-05-13. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  26. ^ "Cecil C Humphreys School of Law :: Faculty :: University of Memphis". Law.memphis.edu. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  27. ^ "Columbia Law School : Full Time Faculty". Law.columbia.edu. 1961-11-09. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  28. ^ [6]
  29. ^ "Professor Mary Coombs". Faculty.law.miami.edu. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  30. ^ https://www.supremecourt.gov/about/biographiescurrent.pdf
  31. ^ "Marc Wolinsky - Attorneys - Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz". Wlrk.com. Retrieved 2012-12-15.
  32. ^ "Gary Born". WilmerHale. Retrieved 2012-12-15.
  33. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2012-12-15.
  34. ^ [7] Archived February 10, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  35. ^ "Boston University School of Law, David J. Seipp, Law Alumni Scholar, Professor of Law". Bu.edu. Retrieved 2012-12-15.
  36. ^ [8] Archived February 13, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  37. ^ Norman, Michael (1986-03-12). "Henry J. Friendly, Federal Judge in Court of Appeals, is Dead at 82 - Free Preview - The New York Times". Select.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  38. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20070927210459/http://www.martindale.com/xp/Martindale/Lawyer_Locator/Search_Lawyer_Locator/search_result.xml?PG=0&STYPE=N&FNAME=thomas&LNAME=dagger&FN=&CN=&STS=&CRY=&bc=1. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved May 14, 2006. Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Harold Medina
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Succeeded by
Ellsworth Van Graafeiland
Preceded by
J. Edward Lumbard
Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Succeeded by
Irving Kaufman

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