Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Page 3


Ninth Circuit Senior Judge Robert R. Beezer Dead at 83


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Senior Judge Robert R. Beezer of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has died.

Beezer, 83, died of lung cancer Friday in Seattle. Private services will be held there tomorrow.

Beezer practiced law from 1956 until 1984, when he was appointed to the court by President Reagan. He took senior status in 1996 and continued to hear cases until recently, relying on computer technology to review briefs after his eyesight failed.

Several colleagues issued statements yesterday upon learning of his death.

 Judge Richard Tallman, also a Seattle practitioner before his appointment to the court, commented:

“When I practiced law with Bob Beezer 30 years ago, he had a well-earned reputation as a contested probate litigator: tenacious, astute, but unfailingly courteous.  He had an intelligent, insightful approach to resolving client problems through creative applications of the law.  When I joined him on the Court of Appeals 12 years ago, Bob was already applying the practical skills of a seasoned attorney to resolving complex legal questions with a delightful mixture of reason and common sense.  He was respectful to everyone, a careful writer, and a dedicated servant of the law.  I shall greatly miss my dear friend, mentor, and colleague.”

Judge Ronald Gould, also of Seattle, called Beezer “the model and epitome of wise judicial statesmanship” and described his writings as “formed of plain language, forceful and direct.”

A court spokesperson noted that Beezer continued to contribute quality scholarship to the court in his later years, as a result of using computer programs that translated written documents into audio files and displayed the text he wrote in an enlarged font on an oversized monitor. He wrote the court’s opinion in Marshall v. Stern, 600 F.3d 1037 (9th Cir. 2010), better known as “the Anna Nicole Smith case.”

His opinion narrowed the definition of a non-title 11 “core proceeding” over which bankruptcy courts have jurisdiction, permitting the heirs of Smith’s husband to inherit his estate on the basis of state court rulings in Texas. The Ninth Circuit ruling was affirmed last year by the U.S. Supreme Court.

He also wrote for the court in A & M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc., 239 F.3d 1004 (9th CIr. 2001), holding that digital file-sharing services could be held liable as contributory and vicarious infringers of the copyrights on the materials being shared; Campbell v. Wood, 18 F.3d 662 (9th Cir. 1994), which found that execution by hanging as administered was not cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment; and Ellison v. Brady, 924 F.2d 872 (9th Cir. 1991), which introduced the “reasonable woman” test into the circuit’s jurisprudence for determining when a work environment was sufficiently hostile to violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Beezer also served as a judge pro tem in the Seattle Municipal Court from 1962 to 1976 and as a Washington State Bar Association Board of Governors member from 1980 to 1983, and had a major hand in drafting the current Washington state Probate Code.

The lifelong resident of Seattle attended the University of Washington and the University of Virginia, where he earned his law degree.  Prior to entering law school, he was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving two years of active service. 

Survivors, the court said, include his wife of 54 years, Hazlehurst; a son, Robert, and his wife, Patricia Ina Dorsey, of Tacoma; another son, John Leighton, and a daughter, Allison, both of Seattle; and two grandchildren.


Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company