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Judge Simon E. Sobeloff, 1894-1973  

An online digital project devoted to the life and career of Judge Simon Sobeloff.
Last Updated: Apr 14, 2014 URL: http://law.umaryland.libguides.com/simon_sobeloff Print Guide RSS Updates

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Introduction

Perhaps Judge David L. Bazelon said it best: "Simon Sobeloff was a wise and perceptive human being, a warm friend, and a great judge." Simon E. Sobeloff's career in the law spanned fifty-nine years, most of which were devoted to public service.

From 1919 until his death in 1973, years which witnessed the great political and social upheavals of the twentieth century, Judge Sobeloff addressed himself to issues such as progressive reform at the city level, prohibition, censorship, the great depression, war, civil rights, civil liberties, legislative reapportionment, and reform of the criminal justice system. Consistently he took the side of the less fortunate and the persecuted. His close friend, Governor Theodore Roosevelt McKeldin, called him, simply, "the champion of the underdog." Above all, Sobeloff was dedicated to the belief that the law existed to see justice done. While recognizing that courts operate within the constraints of statute and precedent, he refused to allow technicalities and fine legal points to deny justice. Committed to insuring that justice did not belong only to the wealthy and powerful, he exhibited an activist's concern that the courts take an aggressive role in redressing grievances of politically impotent minorities. To his way of thinking, the legal system functioned best when racial, religious, or ethnic minorities, the poor, or the politically impotent received fair treatment.

Devoted to principle, he never hesitated to advocate an unpopular cause and often became the center of controversy as a result. Nevertheless, the Baltimore Sun observed that he managed to escape "most of the obloquy that is the normal lot of persons in public life." His personality and style had a good deal to do with the fact that a reporter, after reviewing "voluminous newspaper articles and editorials," found "almost nothing of a censorious nature." He was a kind and gentle man who avoided excessive partisanship. His family knew him as a devoted husband, loving father, and a doting grandfather. Friends remarked on his personal magnetism, loyalty, integrity, intelligence, charm, and wit.

More Information:

Early CareerCity Solicitor | Return to Private Practice | Solicitor General | Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals | Special Cases | Additional Resources | Listen to Audio

Biographical material is reproduced from a brochure prepared by Michael Mayer for the University of Maryland School of Law, 1980. Additional new material supplied by Professor Mayer, 2006.  Additional research and site development by Bill Sleeman.

 

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