Harold R. Medina, a federal judge for more than 30 years who achieved lasting fame for his handling of the trial of 11 communist leaders in the 1940s, died in his sleep Wednesday at Pascack Valley Hospital in Westwood, N.J., where he was admitted Monday with a slight fever, his grandson, Standish Forde Medina Jr. said.
He was 102 years old.Medina, who retired from the bench at the age of 92, became a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in 1947 and was promoted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1951.
At his death he was the oldest federal judge and the oldest alumnus of Princeton University.
A watershed in his life came July 1, 1947.
At the age of 59 and at a time in life when most men are experiencing diminishing pressure, Harold Raymond Medina, a lawyer in private practice, accepted an assignment that would cut his annual income by 85 percent, subject his performance to intense national scrutiny and project him into the circle reserved for famous men.
He became a federal judge in the Southern District of New York.
``I've made plenty of money,' he declared at the time. ``Now I'd like to do something for my country. I guess the best thing I have to contribute is law.'
He was making $100,000 a year as a lawyer; as a judge, he would earn $15,000.
He came to the job with stunning credentials. Born in Brooklyn in 1888, Medina was graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton in 1909.
In 1912, he was graduated from Columbia Law School, the winner of the Ordronneaux Prize for the third-year student with the best scholastic standing throughout law school.
A year earlier, he had passed his New York State bar examination, married Ethel Forde Hillyer of East Orange, N.J., and landed a job as a law clerk for $8 a week.
He also taught as a member of the Columbia Law School faculty from 1915 until 1940. And in that time he managed to write law books while he built his own practice.
In 1973, he was quoted as saying the most important event of his life occurred June 6, 1911, the day he married Hillyer. She died after suffering a stroke in the 60th year of their marriage.