Stephen Reinhardt

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Stephen Reinhardt
Stephen Reinhardt.jpg
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
In office
September 11, 1980 – March 29, 2018
Appointed byJimmy Carter
Preceded bySeat established by 92 Stat. 1629
Succeeded byKenneth K. Lee
Personal details
Stephen Roy Shapiro

(1931-03-27)March 27, 1931
New York City, New York
DiedMarch 29, 2018(2018-03-29) (aged 87)
Los Angeles, California
Political partyDemocratic
EducationPomona College (B.A.)
Yale Law School (LL.B.)

Stephen Roy Reinhardt (born Stephen Roy Shapiro;[1] March 27, 1931 – March 29, 2018)[2] was a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, with chambers in Los Angeles, California. He was the last federal appeals court judge in active service to have been appointed by President Jimmy Carter.

Reinhardt was well-known as a feeder judge for the U.S. Supreme Court, and as one of the most liberal judges on the courts of appeals.

Early life, education, and practice[edit]

Born Stephen Roy Shapiro into a Jewish family,[3] to lawyer Samuel Shapiro, and Silvia Handelsman,[4] Reinhardt changed his name after his mother divorced his father and married Gottfried Reinhardt.[1] Reinhardt graduated from University High School in Los Angeles. He enrolled in Pomona College and graduated three years later with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government in 1951. In 1954, he received a Bachelor of Laws from Yale Law School.[5]

After law school, Reinhardt worked at the legal counsel's office for the United States Air Force as a lieutenant in Washington, D.C. Two years later, he clerked for United States District Judge Luther Youngdahl, a former governor of Minnesota, of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. He then entered private practice, working for the law firm O'Melveny & Myers from 1958 to 1959 practicing entertainment law. After two years at O'Melveny, he began working at a small firm in Los Angeles that became Fogel, Julber, Reinhardt, Rothschild & Feldman, specializing in labor law.[5]

Reinhardt served as a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, California Advisory Committee from 1962 to 1974 and was its vice chairman from 1969 to 1974. He also served as member of the Democratic National Committee and as an unpaid advisor to former Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley and California governor Jerry Brown. In 1975 he was appointed to the Los Angeles Police Commission, which he chaired from 1978 until his judicial confirmation in 1980.[5]

Federal judicial service[edit]

Reinhardt was nominated by President Jimmy Carter on November 30, 1979, to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, to a new seat authorized by 92 Stat. 1629. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on September 11, 1980, and received his commission on September 11, 1980. His service terminated on March 29, 2018, due to his death.[5]

Other service[edit]

Reinhardt continued his public service as Secretary of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Amateur Athletic Foundation.

Reinhardt administered the oath of office to former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on July 1, 2005.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Reinhardt's mother divorced his father and married movie director Gottfried Reinhardt, the son of director Max Reinhardt. Stephen Reinhardt was married to Ramona Ripston, who was Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California until her February 2011 retirement.[7] They had three children.[4]


Reinhardt died in Los Angeles on March 29, 2018, from a heart attack.[8]

Chief Judge Sidney Runyan Thomas issued the following statement upon learning of Reinhardt's death:[9]

All of us here at the Ninth Circuit are shocked and deeply saddened by Judge Reinhardt’s death. We have lost a great friend and colleague. As a judge, he was deeply principled, fiercely passionate about the law and fearless in his decisions. He will be remembered as one of the giants of the federal bench. He had a great life that ended much too soon.

Judicial philosophy[edit]

Reinhardt was known as one of the most liberal judges on the courts of appeals. His decisions were "reversed more often than most" judges before the Supreme Court.[10] In 2003, Reinhardt admitted that he "was a liberal from a very young age." "I think I was born that way", he said.[11] However, he did not believe that a Supreme Court reversal meant that his opinion was wrong or that he didn't follow the law. "The Supreme Court changes the law regularly. And this Supreme Court - which is the most activist Court there has ever been - is constantly changing the law. So if you really are faithful to the law, you're likely to get reversed because it [the Court] has cut back on rights."[11] His reversal rate did not affect his status as a feeder judge—between 2009 and 2013, he placed six of his clerks on the Supreme Court, tied for the tenth highest number during the same time period.[12]

Reinhardt's former clerk, Cornell law professor Michael Dorf said that when Reinhardt "believes himself clearly bound by Supreme Court precedent with which he disagrees, he states his disagreement but follows the precedent." Dorf accounts for Reinhardt's reversal rate by stating that "Reinhardt resolves cases under existing precedent as he believes those precedents should be read, without regard to whether five or more Justices of the Supreme Court are likely to reverse him."[13]

Examples of opinions he wrote for the Ninth Circuit that were reversed are:

  • Safeco Insurance Co. of America v. Burr, 127 S.Ct. 2201 (2007)
  • Gonzales v. Carhart, 127 S.Ct. 1610 (2007)
  • Ayers v. Belmontes, 127 S.Ct. 469 (2006)
  • Garcetti v. Ceballos, 126 S.Ct. 1951 (2006)
  • Texaco Inc. v. Dagher, 547 U.S. 1 (2006)
  • Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225 (2002)
  • Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Echazabal, 536 U.S. 73 (2002)
  • United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266 (2002)
  • Major League Baseball Players Ass'n v. Garvey, 532 U.S. 504 (2001)
  • Albertson's, Inc. v. Kirkingburg, 527 U.S. 555 (1999)
  • Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702 (1997)
  • Lambert v. Wicklund, 520 U.S. 292 (1997)
  • United States v. Armstrong, 517 U.S. 456 (1997)
  • I.N.S. v. Abudu, 485 U.S. 94 (1988)
  • Heckler v. Lopez, 463 U.S. 1328 (1983)

The following are some of his more notable judicial opinions:

  • Cardoza-Fonseca v. U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service', 767 F.2d 1448 (9th Cir. 1985).
  • The INS had conflated two different routes for seeking asylum and had improperly rejected an application made under one route based on the requirements of the second. This decision was upheld by the Supreme Court.
  • Coleman v. Risley, 839 F.2d 434 (9th Cir. 1988).
  • Standard to obtain asylum.
  • Yniguez v. Arizonans for Official English, 939 F.2d 727 (9th Cir. 1991), adopted en banc, 69 F.3d 920 (9th Cir 1995).
  • The English-only provision in the Arizona constitution was overly broad and violated the First Amendment right of free speech. This decision was vacated by the Supreme Court as moot because plaintiff Yniguez had voluntarily left the employment of the State of Arizona the day after the appeal was filed. 530 US 43. Justice Ginsburg's unanimous opinion for the Court also took a swipe at the Ninth Circuit for failing to certify this question to the state courts, holding that "A more cautious approach was in order. In addition, footnote 11 of Justice Ginsburg's decision chides the Ninth Circuit for failing to recognize that state courts are not bound by decisions of federal courts (except the Supreme Court), even on questions of federal law.
  • Sanders v. Ratelle, 21 F.3d 1446 (9th Cir. 1994).
  • The Sixth Amendment right to counsel can be infringed if counsel has a conflict of interest, even if the defendant has waived the conflict.
  • Compassion in Dying v. Washington, 79 F.3d 790 (9th Cir. 1996) (en banc).
  • A statute prohibiting doctors from prescribing life-ending medication for the terminally ill violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit in Washington v. Glucksberg (1997).
  • Ma v. Reno, 208 F.3d 815 (9th Cir. 2000).
  • An alien cannot be held indefinitely in detention in the absence of a repatriation agreement with his or her country of origin.
  • The right to bear arms is a collective right, not an individual right. This ruling was overruled by the Supreme Court in D.C. v. Heller (2008).
  • Forfeiture of the shark fins was denied on the grounds that, although according to the Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000 any shark fins found aboard a fishing vessel without a corresponding shark carcass may be deemed the product of illegal harvesting, the vessel from which the fins were seized was not in fact a fishing vessel within the meaning of the act. The fins had been harvested by, and bought from, other vessels.
  • In The Matter of Brad Levenson (2009) [2].
  • In his role as Chair of the Ninth Circuit’s Standing Committee on Federal Public Defenders, Reinhardt ruled that the application of the Defense of Marriage Act in denying health insurance benefits to Levenson's same-sex spouse violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
  • Writing for the majority, Reinhardt held that Proposition 8 violated the Equal Protection Clause because California had no rational basis for withdrawing the right to marry from homosexual men and women.

Reinhardt had participated and wrote an opinion on an en banc hearing for Yovino v. Rizo prior to his death, though the final decision of the Ninth Circuit was not reported until 11 days after his death, which Reinhardt's vote supporting the majority decision. The case was petitioned to the Supreme Court, which vacated and remanded the case back to the Ninth Circuit stating that Reinhardt's vote should not be considered as such votes only become finalized when the decision is reported. The Supreme Court stated in a per curium decision that "Federal judges are appointed for life, not for eternity."[14]


Reinhardt received the following awards:

  • 1987 Appellate Judge of the Year by the California Trial Lawyers Association
  • 1993 St. Thomas More Medallion Award by Loyola Law School
  • 1993 Donald Wright Award by the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice
  • 1995 Appellate Justice of the Year by the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles
  • 1998 Champion of Justice: Legal Award by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • 2004 Award for Judicial Excellence by the Idaho Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • 2004 Meritorious Service Award by the University of Oregon Law School[15]


  1. ^ a b Dolan, Maura. "Stephen Reinhardt, 'liberal lion' of the 9th Circuit, dies at 87".
  2. ^ "A Prominent Liberal Judge From The 9th Circuit Court Has Died At 87". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
  3. ^ Washington Post: ""Mondoweiss" is a hate site (Update)" by David Bernstein May 4, 2015
  4. ^ a b Roberts, Sam (2 April 2018). "Stephen Reinhardt, Liberal Lion of Federal Court, Dies at 87". The New York Times.
  5. ^ a b c d Stephen Reinhardt at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  6. ^ "Reinhardt to give Antonio the oath". LA Observed. 2005-06-30. Retrieved 2006-06-14.[dead link]
  7. ^ "Ramona Ripston, Executive Director, ACLU of Southern California Appointed to the State Commission on Judicial Performance". ACLU of Southern California. 1998-07-20. Archived from the original on 2006-05-01. Retrieved 2006-06-14. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  8. ^ "Stephen Reinhardt, liberal circuit court judge, dies at 87". WHEC News10NBC. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
  9. ^ "Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt Dies" (Press release). Ninth Circuit Public Information Office. March 29, 2018. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
  10. ^ Farnsworth, Ward (2006). "The Role of Law in Close Cases: Some Evidence From the Federal Courts of Appeals". Boston University Law Review. 86. pp. 1083, 1090.
  11. ^ a b Blum, Bill (2003-02) The Last Liberal, California Lawyer Archived October 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Stras, David (Fall 2014). "Secret Agents: Using Law Clerks Effectively". Marquette Law Review. 98: 157.
  13. ^ Dorf, Michael (2010-12-02) Hail to the Chief Justice of the Warren Court in Exile, Dorf on Law
  14. ^ Williams, Pete (February 25, 2019). "Supreme Court rules judges might serve for life, but not eternity". NBC News. Retrieved February 25, 2019.
  15. ^ "Oregon Supreme Court Justice Will Address 2004 UO Law Commencement". University of Oregon. 2004-05-12. Archived from the original on 2006-09-03. Retrieved 2006-06-14. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Seat established by 92 Stat. 1629
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Succeeded by
Kenneth K. Lee