2009 Archive

Professor Emeritus and Renowned Scholar Stephen Barnett Dies at 73

Stepehn Barnett

By Andrew Cohen

Stephen Barnett, professor emeritus at Berkeley Law, died of complications resulting from cardiac arrest on Tuesday, October 13. He was 73.

A prominent authority on intellectual property law, First Amendment issues, the news media, and California’s legal institutions—including the state’s Supreme Court—Barnett joined the Berkeley Law faculty in 1967. He taught Copyright and Trademarks, Torts, and California Legal Institutions, was awarded the Elizabeth Josselyn Boalt Chair in 1990, and retired in 2003.

Associate Dean Stephen Sugarman says Barnett “was probably California’s leading analyst and critic of the way the California Supreme Court goes about its business.” Fellow professor Melvin Eisenberg hails his “acute, penetrating research that no one else has done regarding judicial transparency and legitimacy.”

A former clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, Jr., Barnett served in the U.S. Justice Department as a deputy solicitor general from 1977-79. In 1988, he co-authored the book Law of International Telecommunications in the United States, a seminal comparative evaluation of key data from individual nations.

Barnett became interested in the news media at a young age, serving as editor of the Loomis Log during high school at the Loomis School in Windsor, Conn., and later as president of the Harvard Crimson while earning his undergraduate degree at Harvard.

He is survived by his wife, Karine, their son, Alexander, and his stepson, Levon. He also leaves behind his sister, Linda Beizer, and three nephews: Bill Beizer, Jon Beizer, and Matt Beizer.

In recent years, Barnett and Eisenberg spent time together outside of law school during play-dates with Alexander and Eisenberg’s granddaughter, Lia. Eisenberg also recalls Barnett’s kindness during a difficult family time. “When my son, David, passed away, Steve came to our house every night for a week when we were sitting shivah,” says Eisenberg. “That will always stay in my heart.”

More information about Barnett’s life is available here.