Denfeld News

October 30, 2013
Duluth News Tribune

Top Duluth public defender Fred Friedman to retire
By Tom Olsen

Northeastern Minnesota’s chief public defender will call it quits next spring after more than 27 years as the region’s top public defense attorney.

Fred Friedman said Tuesday that he will retire at the end of March. He said he has spent the past few weeks telling friends and colleagues of his decision to step down.

“It’s been the honor of my life, getting to work with the people of Northeastern Minnesota,” Friedman said. “Everything is great; I just thought it was time to retire.”

Friedman, 66, joined the public defender’s office in December 1972 and became the chief in 1986. In his position, Friedman oversees the administration and direction of all public defender services in Carlton, Cook, Lake and St. Louis counties.

The Board of Public Defense is accepting applications from qualified attorneys who are licensed to practice in Minnesota through Nov. 29. Friedman said a public meeting will be held in January or February to interview candidates before making a final decision.

The selection committee will be composed of four people chosen by the Minnesota Supreme Court, three by the governor and two by 6th Judicial District Chief Judge Shaun Floerke. Friedman said he would not be involved in the decision.

Friedman stressed the need for public defender services, saying about 90 percent of criminal defendants in Northeastern Minnesota rely on his agency’s services.

“Private criminal law is more of a TV deal,” he said. “You could go to court for months and not see private counsel.”

Born and raised in the Chicago area, Friedman came to Duluth in 1964 and graduated from Denfeld High School in 1965. He received an undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 1969, and earned a law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1972, just months before being hired by the public defender’s office.

Friedman also has taught part-time in the sociology department and medical school at UMD since 1975.

He said he plans to remain in Duluth after retirement.

“I’m not going away,” he said. “The state of Minnesota has paid me to do this all these years, and I’ll look forward to paying taxes all these years ahead.”

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