Pennsylvania Supreme Court plans public memorial service for late Chief Justice Max Baer | WITF

October 3, 2022 | 4:57 AM

The courtroom has scheduled a public memorial service at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Duquesne University to honor Baer.

  • By Chris Potter and Cindi Lash/WESA

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

In this Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016 picture Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Max Baer attends a ceremony on the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Max Baer, who grew to become the chief justice of Pennsylvania’s highest court simply last 12 months and was set to retire in a quantity of months, has died at his residence in suburban Pittsburgh. He was 74.

A reason for dying was not immediately out there. During a 33-year judicial career that started in Allegheny County, Baer was acknowledged regionally and nationally as an advocate for kids, households and court reforms to profit each.

The state Supreme Court has scheduled a public memorial service at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Duquesne University to honor its late Chief Justice Max Baer.

The service is planned for the Charles J. Dougherty ballroom on the fifth flooring of Duquesne’s Power Center at 600 Forbes Ave. The courtroom also plans to live-stream the service and will present extra info when it has decided arrangements to access the service just about.

Justice Debra Todd now succeeds Baer as chief justice — a job she had been slated to tackle at the finish of the 12 months, when Baer reached the necessary retirement age of 75. In a press release Saturday, Todd known as his demise “a super loss for the court docket and all of Pennsylvania.” A Democrat, Todd would be the first girl to carry that submit.

“Pennsylvania has lost a jurist who served the court and the residents of the Commonwealth with distinction,” Todd mentioned in a statement released by the court docket Saturday morning.

“Chief Justice Baer was an influential and mental jurist whose unwavering focus was on administering fair and balanced justice. He was a tireless champion for children, devoted to defending and offering for our youngest and most weak citizens,” she stated. “His distinguished service and commitment to justice and equity spanned his decades on the bench.”

FILE PHOTO: In this photo taken Jan. 7, 2016, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justices Max Baer, left, Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor, center, Debra Todd, center right, and Kevin M. Doughtery, right, sit at the dais during the swearing in ceremony for fellow Justice David N. Wecht at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

 In this picture taken Jan. 7, 2016, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justices Max Baer, left, Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor, middle, Debra Todd, heart proper, and Kevin M. Doughtery, proper, sit at the dais in the course of the swearing in ceremony for fellow Justice David N. Wecht at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald also spoke of Baer’s impression throughout his career as a county Common Pleas decide, and later as a member of the Supreme Court and as its chief justice.

“Max’s heart and keenness for individuals who were in want, significantly households and youngsters, was well-known and evident in a lot of his work. His efforts to lift cash for youths, via the music fund that raised cash through an annual concert and the annual comedy night time, a spotlight of the political season, had been unmatched,” Fitzgerald mentioned in a press release Saturday.

“He might be sorely, sorely missed. We prolong our deepest sympathies to his household and associates, and thank them for permitting this community and state to have him as an advocate for justice for thus lengthy.”

Baer, of Mt. Lebanon, was one of 5 Democrats on the court, but he was also the court’s likeliest “swing justice,” who was wary of sudden shifts in the legislation. He joined the Democratic majority in a 2018 ruling that put aside the state’s Congressional map — a move that enhanced Democrats’ capability to compete in a purple state the place the Congressional delegation had been dominated by Republicans. But he dissented from components of the ruling that set a fast timetable for drafting a model new map prior to the 2020 Census.

“He was a very careful justice, and he’s exhausting to characterize,” stated Bruce Ledewitz, a regulation professor at Duquesne University. “He wasn’t ideological. And he was extra excited about results than in reasoning. That’s not a criticism: He was at all times looking for consensus on the court docket, and that made him a really efficient chief justice.”

“It’s a fantastic loss to the court docket,” Ledewitz added. “And clearly very sudden. He was a very warm particular person and really well-liked.”

‘A big within the profession’

Baer graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1971 and earned his legislation degree from Duquesne’s School of Law in 1975. He served as a deputy attorney general for a quantity of years before entering non-public apply for almost a decade.

In 1989, he efficiently ran for Allegheny County Common Pleas Court. He spent most of his time within the county’s Family Law division, the place his work on courtroom reforms — together with dashing up and streamlining a lot of its processes — and on behalf of youngsters underneath its oversight as its administrative decide was broadly lauded.

Baer was elected to the state’s highest court in 2003, and became chief justice final 12 months, replacing outgoing Justice Thomas Saylor. He “took nice joy” at the moment in naming Saylor the Chief Justice Emeritus, and in current months he’d been centered on preparations for Todd to succeed him, “expressing repeatedly a strong need to make sure her success in every means,” stated Duquesne University President Ken Gormley.

Throughout his career, Baer remained dedicated to Duquesne’s law faculty and attended ceremonies on Sept. 7 to note its renaming because the Thomas R. Kline School of Law of Duquesne University in honor of another distinguished alumnus.

“And he wrote me a wonderful handwritten observe, earlier this week, saying that taking part in this historic event that marked an thrilling new era for the legislation faculty was one of the excessive points of his personal professional profession,” said Gormley, himself an lawyer and constitutional scholar, who referred to Baer as both a good pal and a “true big in the legal profession.”

“As chief justice, he shied away from the limelight however took nice pleasure in celebrating the accomplishments of others. He all the time led by instance as a caring, collaborative colleague who introduced the Court collectively to achieve consensus each time attainable. And he presided, with pride, over the 300th anniversary of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court — the nation’s oldest court docket — this past May at an occasion held on the Constitution Center in Philadelphia,” Gormley said.

In this Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016 photo Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Max Baer attends a ceremony at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

In this Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016 picture Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Max Baer attends a ceremony on the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

‘He cared for children’

Allegheny Common Pleas Court President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark, a longtime Family Court judge who served twice as its administrative decide after Baer’s tenure there, mentioned she got to know him when he was getting ready to hitch Family Court and she was working in the county District Attorney’s workplace.

“There was a backlog of everything [then],” she mentioned. “Under his administration, the juvenile courtroom employed 4 dependency-hearing officers. He began this excellent relationship with the Department of Human Services, which continues to today.”

When Baer moved on to the Supreme Court, other administrative judges in Family Court “continued to construct on the things he started,” Clark mentioned. “And we labored on these items on a statewide foundation.”

Clark mentioned she collaborated with Baer throughout her tenure in juvenile and household courtroom, and thru the Pennsylvania Children’s Roundtable Initiative, a wide-ranging plan launched in 2007 to make family courts more conscious of the needs of youngsters and families. Since then, it has centered on enhancing communication, efficiency and worker training inside the child-dependency system, making certain permanence, safety and well-being for children in the care of that system, and collaborating more effectively with related state companies.

Baer’s leadership was important to the creation and continued success of that initiative — and to its adoption in other states, Clark mentioned.

“It takes somebody like him — a powerful particular person,” she stated. “He had a saying, ‘Gentle strain, relentlessly applied,’ or one thing like that. And he wasn’t always so light. But that’s what we wanted in Pennsylvania to make this happen, come hell or excessive water.”

During an area roundtable assembly on Aug. 25, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Kim D. Eaton — the current Family Court administrative judge — organized to honor Baer by naming a conference room there for him, Clark recalled.

“He cared for kids who couldn’t struggle for themselves, for fogeys who lacked assets . . . ” Clark stated. “I will miss him very much.”

Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered the commonwealth flag to fly at half-staff on all Pennsylvania amenities, public buildings and grounds in recognition of Baer’s death.

“He was a revered and esteemed jurist with a long time of service to our courts and our commonwealth,” Wolf mentioned. “I am grateful for his contributions and leadership within the Supreme Court.”

Kent M. Wilhelm / Spotlight PA

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that it’ll not await a lower court docket decision about the means ahead for the state’s congressional map and will as a substitute take over the case.

Other tributes to Baer included:

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey: “Pittsburgh native Max Baer, the chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, lived a life devoted to public service. He spent decades preventing on behalf of families on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas earlier than joining the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Baer was all the time kind, compassionate, and caring — his death will be a loss for the complete Commonwealth. May his memory be a blessing now and always.”

State Rep. Emily Kinkead of Brighton Heights: “[I’m] deeply saddened to hear to in regards to the sudden passing of our chief justice, Max Baer. He served our Supreme Court with dignity and served the law and justice above all else. He will certainly be missed.”

State Sen. Jay Costa of Forest Hills: “I am saddened and heartbroken to be taught of the passing of the Honorable Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Max Baer, a revered leader and a real public servant. It’s been a joy to call him a friend for the past 30 years as he has served Allegheny County and the complete commonwealth of Pennsylvania. A fellow Duquesne Law School graduate and lifelong yinzer, Justice Baer leaves an achieved legacy of moral clarity, justice, and care for our democracy. I will miss him greatly and am holding his family in my prayers at present.”

State Rep. Dan Miller of Mt. Lebanon: “Justice Baer was a kind-hearted man with an excellent family. I enjoyed all of our conversations over the years. Mt. Lebanon lost an excellent neighbor, and the Supreme Court lost a committed justice. My honest condolences to all who liked him.”

Speaker of the state House of Representatives Bryan Cutler of Lancaster: “The duties of a constitutional workplace are heavy and the legal issues that Chief Justice Baer determined over many years were not simple or simple. The dedication the chief justice demonstrated to his duties and in representing Pennsylvania’s judicial branch should be counseled and could have a long-lasting influence in the future. The chief justice was an honorable man doing a tough job.”

State House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff of Bellefonte: “Of notice, [Baer’s] admirable work in the area of foster care, adoption and child advocacy is one thing that has had a monumental impact on the lives of countless Pennsylvania children and made the dream of becoming a household a actuality for a lot of. I again want these close to him consolation and peace during this troublesome time.”





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