I. Raymond Kremer, 78, Former Judge

Posted: March 28, 1999

I. Raymond Kremer, 78, a former Common Pleas Court judge who was a fierce defender of the law and whose counsel was sought by other jurists, died of a prolonged lung ailment Friday at Hahnemann University Hospital. He lived in Center City.

Mr. Kremer spent more than 50 years in law and was known for having a soft heart - whether on the bench or before it - for the underdog, his friends said. His care for the ``little guys,'' as he characterized them, was perhaps influenced by his childhood as a foster child, friends said.

He was regularly consulted by judges throughout the state on ethical issues.

His colleagues honored Mr. Kremer by naming him chairman of the judicial ethics committee of the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judge from 1980 to 1995.

``He loved and breathed the law,'' his wife, Sue Burns Kremer, said. ``That took up all his time.''

Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham shared an office for eight years with Mr. Kremer when both were judges and remembered him as a dedicated jurist.

``He was a no-nonsense kind of judge, very gifted, with some of his opinions running 125 pages,'' Abraham said. ``And he was brutal to lawyers who tried to pull the wool over the court.''

Even prosecutors caught his wrath when they got out of hand. Once in 1978, Mr. Kremer sent to jail a talkative assistant district attorney who had disobeyed the jurist's command to stop talking. The prosecutor served 45 minutes in jail. Mr. Kremer then barred him from his courtroom.

His lengthy and erudite opinions were inspired by his enjoyment of Shakespeare and other authors, said Martin Krimsky, a former law partner.

``Ray had a great intellect,'' Krimsky said. ``You could see his love for Shakespeare, Browning, Poe and Whitman in his opinions and writings. He was a judge's judge.''

Mr. Kremer was involved in several celebrated cases in his career. In 1976, he represented former Mayor Frank L. Rizzo in a defamation of character suit against The Inquirer for a Sunday magazine article the mayor said ridiculed him.

Rizzo demanded that the article be withdrawn. The Inquirer refused but printed a front-page disclaimer saying the article had been a satire.

Shortly after, Mr. Kremer defended Rizzo in a lawsuit filed by Philadelphia Newspapers Inc. against Rizzo, the police, and the Building and Construction Trades Council in connection with the March 19, 1976, blockade at The Inquirer building.

In 1979, Mr. Kremer sparred with then-District Attorney Edward Rendell, now the mayor, over lenient sentences. Rendell was miffed, because Mr. Kremer would not accept sentencing recommendations from prosecutors. Incensed by the criticism, Mr. Kremer put Rendell on the stand and grilled the chief prosecutor for four hours.

Despite their tiff, Rendell praised Mr. Kremer as ``an extraordinarily brilliant mind and great trial lawyer who could cut through complex legal issues and get to the heart of the matter immediately.''

Said the mayor: ``He was someone who cared for the city of Philadelphia. And just before he became ill, I was considering appointing him to the prison board.''

Mr. Kremer also took on divorce cases, reluctantly.

``He inadvertently became the divorce lawyer of his day,'' his daughter Andrea said. ``The hallmark of his style was not combative but to seek reconciliation before finally going through with the divorce.''

Mr. Kremer spent much of his teens in foster homes. He graduated from Gratz High School in 1938, earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Temple University in 1942, and entered the Army as World War II was winding down.

After he was discharged, he entered Temple's Law School. He earned his law degree in 1948.

In 1977, he was appointed to the Common Pleas Court by then-Gov. Milton J. Shapp. He served 19 years on the bench before returning to private practice in 1996.

At the time of his death, he was serving of counsel for the law firm of his friend Robert C. Daniels.

Mr. Kremer's second wife, Clare Rosof Kremer, to whom he was married 35 years, died in 1992. His first marriage ended in divorce.

In addition to his wife and daughter Andrea, Mr. Kremer is survived by his son, Neil; daughter Carole Cristine Kremer-Gusfa; a brother; a sister; and two grandchildren.

Services will be held at 3 p.m. today at the Joseph Levine Memorial Chapel, 7112 North Broad St. Burial will be private.

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