Frank Newman, UC Berkeley law professor and former state Supreme Court justice, dies at 78

by Gretchen Kell

Berkeley -- Frank C. Newman, retired associate justice of the California Supreme Court and former dean and professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law died unexpectedly on Sunday, Feb. 18. He was 78.

Newman was an internationally recognized authority on human rights law. In many forums -- particularly at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Switzerland -- he provided an important voice in major human rights concerns of the last three decades.

An inspiring teacher, Newman continued after his retirement to teach at UC Berkeley's law school, Boalt Hall, and at the University of San Francisco and Golden Gate University. Many of his former students are active in legislative, administrative and judicial arenas and before the United Nations and other international organizations.

Born in Eureka, Calif., in 1917 and raised in South Pasadena, Newman received his AB from Dartmouth College in 1938 and his LLB from UC Berkeley in 1941. During World War II, he served with the Office of Price Administration and later was an officer in the U.S. Navy's Office of General Counsel.

He then returned to his studies, receiving his LLM in 1947 and his JSD in 1953 from Columbia University. He became a member of the Boalt Hall faculty in 1946 and served as dean from 1961 to 1966. His courses on legislation and administrative law led to his selection in 1964 as chair of the drafting and executive committees of the California Constitution Revision Commission. In 1972, the commission completed the last thorough constitutional revision.

In 1977, Newman was named to the California Supreme Court by then-Gov. Edmund Brown, Jr., and served five years. On the court, he joined one of his former students -- Chief Justice Rose Bird.

Newman, a civil libertarian, was widely regarded as one of the court's more liberal and free-spirited members. He voted consistently for defendants, workers and consumers.

Among the important opinions he wrote were a 1980 decision striking down a Santa Barbara "anti-commune" ordinance, noting that unrelated persons could be considered family under the state Constitution; a 1982 opinion upholding a state law that allows defendants to close their preliminary hearings to the public and the media; and a 1981 ruling that security guards, unlike police, do not have to read suspects their rights.

As a scholar of human rights law, Newman introduced the emerging field to the Boalt Hall curriculum in the late 1960s. He was a frequent lecturer on the topic at many U.S. universities and around the world and had an inspired following of students and young lawyers.

Newman was named Jackson H. Ralston Professor of International Law at the law school and helped bring prominence to its library, where he developed the human rights and United Nations collections.

Newman's vehement protests against gross human rights violations in Greece and Chile helped establish the basis for United Nations procedures to respond to these problems. In 1975, he was the architect of federal legislation that formed the legal framework for President Carter's human rights campaigns.

Newman was active in and on behalf of many human rights organizations worldwide including Amnesty International, the American Bar Association, the American Society of International Law, the International Institute of Human Rights, the United States Institute of Human Rights, the World Affairs Council and the American Civil Liberties Union.

A prolific writer, he published numerous articles to help develop and strengthen the legal mechanisms of international human rights enforcement.

He was also author of pioneer course books in the field of human rights: International Human Rights: Problems of Law and Policy (with Richard B. Lillich, 1979) and International Human Rights: Law, Policy and Process (with David S. Weissbrodt, 1990 and Supplement 1994).

In 1984, Newman was named co-chair of UC Berkeley's Peace and Conflict Studies program.

He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Frances, of Orinda; a daughter, Holly Newman Daniels of Novato; and a sister, Dorothy Clements of Woodland.

Memorial gifts may be sent to The Frank C. Newman Memorial Fund c/o David N. Bortin, Esq., P.O. Box 3479, Walnut Creek, CA 94598. The fund will be dedicated to further the cause of international human rights. Plans for a memorial service are pending.

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