Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Page 1


Services Set for Ninth Circuit Senior Judge Brunetti


By a MetNews Staff Writer


A funeral service for Senior Judge Melvin T. Brunetti of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to take place Saturday in his hometown of Reno, Nev.

Brunetti passed away Friday after a long battle with cancer, court officials said yesterday. He was 75.

The veteran jurist was in his 24th year of service, having been nominated to the federal appellate court bench in 1985 by then-President Ronald Reagan and taken senior status in 1999.

Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Alan H. Friedenthal, who served as a clerk for Brunetti in 1987 and 1988, remembered him as a “very, very warm man,” who “really cared about his clerks,” and would hold reunions for them.

“It was always great to see him,” Friedenthal said.

When Friedenthal came to Nevada to interview for the clerk position, he said, he and Brunetti “just hit it off right away” and the jurist offered him the job on the spot. When Friedenthal mentioned that his mother had accompanied him on the trip, he said, Brunetti insisted that he wanted to meet her and invited her into chambers as well.

Friedenthal said he often had dinner with Brunetti while working on cases during his clerkship, adding that “it was really a great experience.”

During his lengthy judicial tenure, Brunetti served on the panel which presided over Osborne v. District Attorney’s Office for the Third Judicial District (2005) 423 F.3d 1050, after remand, (2008) 521 F.3d 1118, reversed, (2009) 129 S. Ct. 2308, which ruled that an Alaska inmate’s individual rights action for post-conviction access to DNA evidence was not barred by Heck v. Humphrey (1994) 512 U.S. 477 and, after remand, that due process conferred a right of access to the evidence. The Supreme Court later reversed 5-4 on the due process issue.

In Harris v. Vasquez (1990) 949 F.2d 1497, Brunetti voted to uphold the conviction and death sentence of Robert Alton Harris on habeas review. Harris and his brother were convicted of kidnapping and murdering two 16-year old boys in 1978 and was executed in 1992.

Brunetti also dissented from the en banc majority in Adamson v. Ricketts (1986) 789 F.2d 722, 735 (en banc), reversed, (1987) 483 U.S. 1, arguing that double jeopardy should not have barred the defendant’s prosecution for first-degree murder in connection with a bombing in Phoenix, Ariz. He was later vindicated by a Supreme Court reversal.

A native of Nevada, Brunetti graduated from Sparks High School and attended the University of Nevada, where he studied electrical engineering before leaving school in 1953 to take a job in the food industry.

Years later, on the advice of a judge who was a family friend, he decided to pursue a career in law and was admitted to the University of California Hastings College of the Law, court officials said. He graduated in 1964.

Brunetti returned to Nevada to practice and began his legal career as an associate at Vargas, Bartlett and Dixon from 1964 to 1969. He then joined the firm of Laxalt, Bell, Berry, Allison and LeBaron, where he worked as an associate from 1970 to 1971 and as a partner from 1971 to 1978.

He was a shareholder in the firm of Allison, Brunetti, MacKenzie, Hartman, Soumbeniotis and Russell from 1978 until his appointment to the federal bench.

The jurist also served as president of the Nevada State Bar from 1984 to 1985 and was active in court governance, including chairing the Space and Security Committee during a time when many new courthouses were constructed in the circuit, court officials said.

Additionally, he was a musician, playing clarinet and ukulele in his younger years, and had a band that entertained at high school dances. Later in life, he became an accomplished photographer.

Brunetti is survived by his wife of 44 years, Gail; two children, Nancy and Bradley; two brothers, Larry and Frank; two grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. His son, Melvin Jr., pre-deceased him.

The funeral service is set for Saturday at 1 p.m. at St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral in Reno followed by a private burial service.


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