Guest Columns

SMITH: FORMER LEGISLATOR LOVED THE CAMARADERIE AND FRIENDSHIP

Don Friedman always told the truth, despite the political consequences

The Colorado Statesman

"Morgan, I want to come out to Adams County and testify for Eldon Cooper,” the man on the phone said. It was someone I’d never met, State Representative Don Friedman, a Republican from Denver. Eldon had moved during the 1972 re-apportionment process, and the Secretary of State had ruled that he no longer met the necessary residency requirements and therefore couldn’t be on the ballot. We had filed suit in Adams County to reverse his ruling.

I didn’t know Don and it certainly seemed odd that a Republican would go out of his way to help a Democrat save his seat. Don, however, had been serving on the Joint Budget Committee with Eldon, and they had developed a deep friendship and sense of respect. This was the way Don was. He didn’t let anything get in the way of personal loyalty.

The actual trial looked like a loser; the law was completely against Eldon. Our ace in the hole, however, was Judge Jean Jacobucci, a judge who used the law to achieve justice, regardless of the technicalities. Jacobucci was a great influence on me as well as on Chief Justice Mike Bender and U.S. District Judge John Kane. We all cut our teeth in his courtroom.

Don came out to Adams County to tell Judge Jacobucci that the legislature hadn’t intended in any way to deny Eldon a chance at re-election. Under the rules of evidence, it wasn’t something he could testify to — the intent of the other 99 legislators — but Jacobucci listened to him nevertheless and was clearly influenced by the fact that he, a Republican, would stand up for a Democrat like this. To the astonishment of the Attorney General’s office we won the case and Eldon was easily re-elected.

Don Friedman was a tremendous legislator. He could always be counted on to tell the truth, regardless of the consequences. And he was always ready with a joke when things got tense. He loved the camaraderie and the friendship and he judged you as a person, not as either a Republican or a Democrat. He brought great life and vitality and intelligence to the political process. It was a gift to have served with him.

Morgan Smith served in the Colorado House with Don Friedman from 1973 to 1976. He can be reached at Morgan-smith@comcast.net.