Solomon Heydenfeldt

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Solomon Heydenfeldt
Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court
In office
January 1, 1852 – January 6, 1857
Appointed byDirect election
Preceded bySerranus Clinton Hastings
Succeeded byPeter H. Burnett
Personal details
Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.
Died(1890-09-15)September 15, 1890 (age 73–74)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
SpouseCatherine Heydenfeldt (death 1887)
Elisabeth A. Heydenfeldt

Solomon Heydenfeldt (1816 – September 15, 1890) was an American attorney who was an associate justice of the California Supreme Court from 1852 to 1857.[1][2] He was the second Jewish justice of the court, after Henry A. Lyons, but was the first elected by direct vote of the people.[1]


In 1816, Heydenfeldt was born in Charleston, South Carolina.[3] He read law in the offices of William F. De Saussure, a son of the noted Chancellor Henry William de Saussure.[3] In 1837, at 21 years of age, Heydenfeldt moved to Russell County and Tallapoosa County, Alabama. There, he was admitted to the state bar, practiced law, and in 1841 served as a judge.[4][3]

In 1850, he moved to California and was admitted to the bar.[3] In 1851, his brother, Elcan Heydenfeldt, served as President pro tempore of the California State Senate, and Solomon unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party nomination to the United States Senate.[3]

In October 1851, he ran against Whig Party candidate, Tod Robinson, to fill the seat of Serranus Clinton Hastings, and won a six year term.[3] Heydenfeldt's notable opinions include Irwin v. Phillips,[5] which established the doctrine of prior appropriation in western water law jurisprudence.[6] In March 1852, he returned to Alabama to visit his family, and his absence from the state led to a court opinion on whether his seat was "vacant".[7][8]

On January 6, 1857, he stepped down from the bench,[3] and joined Vermont-born brothers Oscar L. Shafter and James McMillan Shafter in forming the law firm of Shafter, Shafter, Park and Heydenfeldt, along with Trevor Park, in San Francisco.[9] While in private practice, Heydenfeldt argued before the California Supreme Court in Ex Parte Newman (1858),[10] where he successfully defended a Jewish man's right to work on Sunday.[11]

In 1862, during the Civil War, he refused on principle to take a test oath for lawyers of loyalty to the Union cause (as did Virginia-born James D. Thornton), which led to his semi-retirement from the Bar.[3]

Civic activities[edit]

Heydenfeldt helped found the first free kindergarten in San Francisco, along with New York professor Felix Adler.[12]

Personal life[edit]

He married twice: first, in Alabama, to Catherine Heydenfeldt, who died July 3, 1887,[13] and then, in California, to Elisabeth A. Heydenfeldt, who survived him.[14][15] He had ten children.[12] His son, Solomon, graduated from Santa Clara University and in October 1872 became an attorney, and his nephew, Walter P. Levy, was a judge of the San Francisco Superior Court.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Friedenberg, Albert M. (1902). "Solomon Heydenfeldt: A Jewish Jurist Of Alabama and California". Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society. 10 (10): 129–140. JSTOR 43059669.
  2. ^ Rochlin, Harriet; Rochlin, Fred (2000). Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-618-00196-5..
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Solomon Heydenfeldt, Death of the Well-Known Lawyer After a Very Brief Illness". Daily Alta California. Vol. 83, no. 78. California Digital Newspaper Collection. 16 September 1890. p. 8. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  4. ^ Heydenfeldt v. Townes, 27 Ala. 56 (1855)("The order appointing an administrator, made in November 1841, is signed by S. Heydenfeldt as judge").
  5. ^ Irwin v. Phillips, 5 Cal. 140 (1855).
  6. ^ Littlefield, Douglas R. (1983). "Water Rights during the California Gold Rush: Conflicts over Economic Points of View". West Hist Q. 14 (4): 415–434. doi:10.2307/968199. JSTOR 968199. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  7. ^ People v. Wells, 2 Cal. 198 (1852).
  8. ^ Camp, E. W. (1937–1938). "When is it Vacant?". California Law Review. 26 (1): 32–33. doi:10.2307/3476359. JSTOR 3476359. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  9. ^ Tippin, Brenda L. (May 2016). "History Lesson: Past and Present: Pt. Reyes Morgan Horse Ranch" (PDF). National Park Service. p. 28. Retrieved July 18, 2017. Senior partner Oscar Lovell Shafter was, at that time, considered the foremost title lawyer in California.
  10. ^ Ex Parte Newman, 9 Cal. 502 (1858).
  11. ^ Grodin, Joseph R. (Spring 2009). "California Supreme Court Cases on Civil Rights in the Early Years" (PDF). California Supreme Court Historical Society Newsletter: 15.
  12. ^ a b American Jewish Historical Quarterly, Volume 10. American Jewish Historical Society. 1902. pp. 138–139. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  13. ^ "Catherine Heydenfeldt's Will". Daily Alta California. No. 42. California Digital Newspaper Collection. 16 July 1887. p. 8. Retrieved July 19, 2017. Ex-Judge Solomon Heydenfeldt is named in the will as executor.
  14. ^ "Disputed Deeds, The Titles Called Into Question. More Complications for the Lawyers in the Famous Heydenfeldt Case". San Francisco Call. Vol. 74, no. 151. California Digital Newspaper Collection. 29 October 1893. p. 20. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  15. ^ In re Heydenfeldt, 106 Cal. 434 (1895).
  16. ^ "An Old Pioneer Passes Away, After a Brief Illness Death Claims Elcan Heydenfeldt". San Francisco Call. Vol. 83, no. 87. California Digital Newspaper Collection. 25 February 1898. p. 10. Retrieved July 19, 2017. Elcan Heydenfeldt, brother of the late Judge Solomon Heydenfeldt and uncle of Judge Walter Levy.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court
Succeeded by