The judge who presided over the trial over the University of California at Berkeley's bid to build a new training center next to its football stadium has died unexpectedly at the age of 58.
Miller, who served as the court's presiding judge in 2004 and 2005, was found dead by a relative in her home in the 1300 block of El Centro Avenue in Oakland's Glenview District about 6:15 p.m. on Friday.
Miller handled the high-profile case over whether UC Berkeley could go forward with its plan to build a new athletic training center next to its football stadium on a site populated by a grove of oak trees.
In January 2007, she issued a preliminary injunction to temporarily stop the university from going forward with the project after the city of Berkeley and environmental and neighborhood groups filed suit. Opponents said the trees should be saved and the site is dangerous because it's near the Hayward earthquake fault.
But Miller ruled in the university's favor in June 2008 and several months later the trees were torn down and work on the project began.
Alameda County Superior Court Presiding Judge Yolanda Northridge said in a statement today, "Barbara was a good friend, a colleague and an outstanding leader. She was the first woman elected by her peers as presiding judge of the unified superior court and was the force behind the establishment of the first domestic violence court in the county."
Northridge said, "To say she will be missed is an understatement. She was a wonderful mentor to our younger judges and a well-respected jurist. She embraced her work with enthusiasm, wisdom and compassion."
Miller was elected to the Superior Court in March 1996 after previously serving as a Superior Court commissioner, beginning in 1987. Her most recent assignment was at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland, where she presided over a criminal calendar.
Court officials said Miller worked closely with fellow judges Gordon Baranco and Leo Dorado to organize youth education programs about the judicial branch of government in Alameda County's middle and high schools.
Baranco said, "She was personally and professionally committed to providing access, fairness and justice to all, especially those who are historically marginalized by society."
He said, "For a number of years she and I volunteered together, serving food to the needy and the homeless in Oakland and San Francisco."
Miller received her bachelor's degree in communications from the University of Kentucky in 1973 and received her law degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 1978.
Before her judicial career, Miller was an attorney in private practice for 10 years, which included six years with the law firm formerly known as Thelen, Marrin, Johnsons Bridges in San Francisco and four years with the firm Knox, Ricksen, Snook, Anthony and Robbins in Oakland.
Funeral arrangements for Miller are pending.
Bay City News