Solomon Heydenfeldt: Jewish Justice of the California Supreme Court – 1852-1857

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Justice Solomon Heydenfeldt

Justice Solomon Heydenfeldt WS 16/2270

Justice Solomon Heydenfeldt
WS 16/2270

Values Codes  I-H-E-L-P

Solomon Heydenfeldt was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1816.

His mother was Sephardic. His father, Ashkenazic.

Solomon Heydenfeldt attended college in Pennsylvania and studied law in Charleston

He was admitted to the Bar in 1837 at Mont­gomery, Alabama.

Solomon Heydenfeldt practiced law in Ala­bama and Georgia.

 

San Francisco

Solomon Heydenfeldt moved to San Francisco in 1850.

He soon developed a large legal practice and was recognized as a community leader.

 

 

California Supreme Court

Solomon Heydenfeldt was nominated for the three-man Supreme Court and elected in 1851.

Justice Heydenfeldt served as Supreme Court Justice for five years, from the beginning of 1852 to 1857.

His years on the Court were very productive; he wrote forty-five opinions, which may be read today in Volumes 2 to 7 of California Reports.

Justice Heydenfeldt was a brilliant legal scholar, and his opinions left an indelible impression on California law.

He left the Court because of difficulty in supporting his family on the low judicial salary.

 

Solomon Heydenfeldt resumed law practice in San Francisco.

In 1858 Solomon Heydenfeldt successfully defended a Sacra­mento Jew who had been discriminated against for violating the Sunday Laws, when he kept the Jewish Sabbath.

On January 15, 1859, he presided at the huge San Francisco mass meeting held to protest the abduction and forced conversion of the Mortara child of Bologna, Italy.

For decades considered one of the outstanding members of the California Bar, Justice Solomon Heydenfeldt was an outspoken Southern sympa­thizer, and refused to take the “Test Oath” during the Civil War.

This necessitated his withdrawal from law practice for a time, and he became a business advisor to many firms.

 

As a result, Heydenfeldt accumu­lated a substantial fortune, much of which he gave away to innu­merable charities.

He was very interested in early child education, and helped found the first kindergarten in San Francisco.

 

Solomon Heydenfeldt died in 1870 and is interred at Home of Peace Cemetery, Colma, California.

 

More information can be found in the following issues of Western States Jewish History:

  • Heydenfeldt, Solomon Heydenfeldt (1816-1890): Supreme Court Judge; San Francisco; Kramer, William M.; 28/3
  • Heydenfeldt, Elcan; Elcan Heydenfeldt; 1850: The First Jewish California Legislator; San Francisco; Stern, Norton B.; 28/3
  • Heydenfeldt, Elcan; First Jewish State Legislator: Elcan Heydenfeldt; 1850; San Francisco; Stern, Norton B.; 16/1
  • Heydenfeldt, Solomon; Earlies Important Jewish Attorney in California; Solomon Heydenfeldt; Northern California; Kramer, William M.; 23/2
  • Heydenfeldt, Justice Solomon, Pioneer Jews of San Francisco, Part One, A-L, Norton Stern, 41/1

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