Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt, 87

U.S. Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt listens to Sept. 8, 2014, arguments in San Francisco on gay marriage bans. Judge Reinhardt, a liberal stalwart on the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, has died in Los Angeles. He was 87. Court spokesman David Madden says Reinhardt died on March 29, 2018, of a heart attack during a visit to a dermatologist. Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas called Reinhardt a deeply principled jurist who will be remembered as one of the giants of the federal bench. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, Pool, File)

PASADENA, Calif. (CN) – Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt died unexpectedly Thursday, a court representative has confirmed. He was 87.

A President Jimmy Carter appointee, Reinhardt acknowledged being liberal “from a very young age; I think I was born that way.” He wrote opinions on hot-button topics ranging from abortion, immigration and same-sex marriage during his more than 37 years on the Ninth Circuit bench.

Notable Reinhardt opinions include several overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Silveira v. Lockyer, he and the panel held the Second Amendment right to bear arms is a collective, not individual right. The high court overturned Reinhardt’s opinion six years later in D.C. v. Heller.

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. The nation’s high court agreed three years later in Obergefell v. Hodges, a 5-4 decision.

Born to a Jewish family in New York, Reinhardt’s family made their way to Los Angeles when his mother married movie director Gottfried Reinhardt. He received his bachelor’s degree from Pomona College and his law degree from Yale Law School.

Reinhardt practiced entertainment law during a brief stint at O’Melveny & Myers in the late 1950s before specializing in labor law at the LA firm that became Fogel, Julber, Reinhardt, Rothschild & Feldman.

He served on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and later as an unpaid adviser to both then-LA mayor Tom Bradley and current California Governor Jerry Brown. He also chaired the Los Angeles Police Commission until Carter tapped him for a spot on the Ninth Circuit bench in 1980.

Reinhardt was at a dermatologist’s office when he died of a heart attack, the Ninth Circuit said.

His death leaves a vacancy for President Donald Trump to fill.

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