I have attempted at all times, where even the slightest reason for doing what was present, to put defendants on probation. Where a man is a habitual criminal then, of course, probation is impossible, but wherever probation would improve a man’s prospects for the future, he has been thus placed…it can save many from the lives of misery and crime.“ Judge Harry Keidan (1882-1943)
TRUSTED AS A ONE MAN GRAND JURY
A great debater at Eastern High school, Keidan’s peers found his calm and logical approach as a clear sign he would eventually wear judge’s robes. And so, it would be. By 1904, Harry was admitted to the bar and started a private law practice. In 1912, he became Wayne County Assistant prosecutor; 1920 marked his appointment as a judge.
Locally, Keidan was known for his genuine concern for the defendants that appeared before him. Having a keen sense of humor and the utmost patience, Judge Keidan once gave a unsatisfied litigant a half glass of water and two ‘common sense’ pills when he refused to accept a court recommended monetary settlement. The litigant was instructed to sit at the rear of the courtroom for 40 minutes for ‘the pills to kick in’ while the next case was heard.
Keidan helped draft the bill creating Detroit’s first Recorder’s Court stressing the probation department as an important attachment. In 1927, Governor Fred W. Green appointed him to Detroit Circuit Court where he won praise for resolving labor and civic disputes. He was re-elected to this position three times. Keidan was nationally known for being selected as a one-man Grand Jury during the Detroit Bank scandal of 1929.
In his personal life, Harry Keidan was a member of Shaarey Zedek Synagogue in Detroit. He was a deeply religious man who observed the Sabbath. He walked to the courthouse if a Saturday morning session was required. Harry was an active steward to the Boy Scouts, the Jewish Welfare Federation and Goodwill Industries. He was married to Kate and had 2 children.
At the time of his death in 1943, the Detroit City Council passed a resolution stating, “A judge who never condemned; a counselor who never berated; a critic who never scorned – that was Judge Keidan.” He was interned at Clover Hill Cemetery in Birmingham, MI.
Harry Keidan was honored with a Detroit elementary school [on Collingwood near Petoskey]; a Hillel Chapter, A B’nai Brith Lodge and a city playground as a memorial to his legacy. The small park is behind the Clinton Street Greater Bethlehem Temple on Chicago Boulevard. It is fenced and stocked with older functioning playground equipment.