East Bay Judge Dies Unexpectedly

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A Brooklyn man summoned to jury duty wound up locked up for mouthing off.

    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.    

    Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason said a preliminary autopsy  of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller found no signs of  trauma and it appears that she died of natural causes. 

    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