Stephen Barnett, an authority on intellectual property law, First Amendment issues and the state Supreme Court who taught at UC Berkeley's law school for 36 years, has died.
Barnett had a heart attack his Oakland home Oct. 2, spent 11 days in a coma and died Oct. 13, said his wife, Karine Barnett. He was 73.
Born in New York and raised in Connecticut, he attended Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude with a degree in Russian language and literature in 1957. In 1962, he graduated, also magna cum laude, with a law degree from Harvard. After law school, Barnett worked for two years as a law clerk.
Barnett joined UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law faculty in 1967 and taught courses in copyright and trademarks, torts and California legal institutions. He also did first-of-its-kind research on the California Supreme Court, First Amendment issues and intellectual property law, UC Berkeley officials said. He retired in 2003.
"In his scholarship, Steve was a devastating critic of the practices of the California Supreme Court and the California State Bar Association," said Berkeley law professor Melvin Eisenberg.
Stephen Sugarman, the school's associate dean and a professor, said Barnett was a leading analyst and critic of the way the California Supreme Court does its work and delivers decisions, the role of oral arguments, and other practices.
Despite his prominence and his knowledge of the law field, he was a humble man, said his wife of eight years.
"He was very shy and very humble," Karine Barnett said. "I never knew about all the things he had done in his life before I married him, and he never talked about it."
Barnett was fond of foreign travel and served as a visiting professor or fellow at universities in Switzerland, Paris, Germany and Sydney. He also served as a visiting dean of the law department at American University of Armenia, and through mutual connections met his future wife at a party. She had a son, Levon, from a previous marriage.
"When we first got married, I never thought I would have a second child, but he was such a great stepfather to my son," said his wife, now 45. "Since he didn't have any kids, he put all his love and attention into Levon, and then I thought, he needs to have a child."
Alexander was born in October 2004, and he was Barnett's "pride and joy," his wife said. "He spent the last five years with his son. That was his life. "These five years have been a blast."
In addition to his wife and son, Barnett is survived by his stepson, Levon, of Oakland; his sister, Linda Beizer, of Avon, Conn.; and three nephews. Boalt Hall is planning a memorial service in November.
Donations in Barnett's memory may be made to the Parkinson Association of Northern California, 900 Fulton Ave., Suite 100-5, Sacramento, CA 95825.