PITTSBURGH– Max Baer, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, died just months before retiring, the court confirmed on Saturday. He was 74 years old.
Baer died overnight at his home near Pittsburgh, the court said in a news release. The court did not give a reason for his death but called his “sudden passing” a “huge loss to the court and all of Pennsylvania.”
The court said Judge Debra Todd now becomes Chief Justice “as the judge with the longest and most continuous service in the court.” She is the first female Chief Justice in Commonwealth history, a spokesperson for the court has confirmed.
“Chief Justice Baer was an influential and intellectual jurist whose unwavering goal was to administer fair and balanced justice,” Todd said in the statement. “He was a tireless advocate for children, dedicated to protecting and supporting the needs of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens. ”
Governor Tom Wolf ordered state flags at Commonwealth facilities, public buildings and grounds to be reduced to half-staff, saying he was “extremely saddened” by the death of a “respected and esteemed jurist with decades of service to our courts and to our Commonwealth”. “
Baer, a Duquesne law graduate, was a judge in the Allegheny County Family Court and an administrative judge in the Family Court before being elected to the High Court in 2003 and becoming its Chief Justice. Last year. Baer also served as Pennsylvania’s assistant attorney general from 1975 to 1980 and was in private practice before entering the bench.
Earlier this year, Baer was part of the 5-2 majority as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a broad expansion of mail-in voting in Pennsylvania.
Baer was due to retire at the end of 2022 after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75. for confirmation by the Senate. Baer was elected as a Democrat and his death leaves a 4-2 Democratic majority in the high court.
Duquesne President Ken Gormley told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Baer believes judges shouldn’t be public figures and therefore shuns the limelight, using his position to elevate others in the profession. .
“He was collegial, he worked very hard to make the court run like a family and he led by example,” Gormley said. “He was the most caring person imaginable – he always put others first and celebrated their successes. He hated pettiness. He had no time for pettiness.