Judge's death gives Trump opportunity to overhaul 9th Circuit

Judge Stephen Reinhardt Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Judge Stephen Reinhardt, a liberal federal appeals court judge who was part of a panel that rejected California's Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional, died Thursday, according to a court spokesperson.

Judge Reinhardt, considered a liberal icon in legal matters, was an active member of the court, which he joined in 1980 after being nominated by President Jimmy Carter.

He had a heart attack while visiting his dermatologist's office, 9th Circuit spokesman David Madden said. As a judge, he was deeply principled, fiercely passionate about the law and fearless in his decisions.

"All of us here at the 9th Circuit are shocked and deeply saddened by Judge Reinhardt's death", said 9th Circuit Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas. "We have lost a wonderful colleague and friend".

'He will be remembered as one of the giants of the federal bench, ' he added. "He had a great life that ended much too soon", Thomas said. A NY native, Reinhardt was a graduate of Pomona College and earned his law degree at Yale Law School. He was dubbed a "liberal lion" of the federal circuit courts.

Many of his rulings favored defendants facing criminal charges, minorities and immigrants and were eventually overturned by the more conservative Supreme Court, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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Asked after if he had been mad with the Supreme Court, Reinhardt responded "perhaps not in the slightest!" "It stripped same-sex couples of the ability they previously had possessed to obtain from the state, or any other authorized party, an important right - the right to obtain and use the designation of "marriage" to describe their relationships. But I'm not likely to greatly help them perform this" he also said.

In his entire career spanning close to four decades, Reinhardt did his best to help the underdog.

But some of Reinhardt's views were cutting edge: In 2012's Perry v. Brown, Reinhardt and the majority held California's Proposition 8 violated the Equal Protection Clause because the Golden State had no rational basis for withdrawing the right to marry from gay and lesbian citizens.

His death creates a new vacancy on the 9th Circuit, which President Trump will now be able to fill with his own nominee, the report said.

Past year he wrote in an opinion that a Trump administration order to deport a man who entered the country illegally almost three decades ago and became a respected businessman in Hawaii was "inhumane" and "contrary to the values of the country and its legal system".

Reinhardt is survived by his wife, Ramona Ripston, the former director of the ACLU of Southern California; three adult children, Mark Reinhardt, 57, a professor of political science at Williams College; Justin Reinhardt, 52, a musician; and Dana Reinhardt, 47, a novelist; and seven grandchildren.


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