SAN FRANCISCO -- Justice Mathew O. Tobriner, whose numerous opinions during 20 years on the California Supreme Court expanded homosexual rights and included the landmark Marvin 'palimony' case, died Wednesday. He was 78.
Tobriner, known as a liberal but fair-minded jurist, had retired from the court Jan. 3. In recent weeks he had been hospitalized for undisclosed tests at Mt. Zion Hospital.
Former Gov. Edmund 'Pat' Brown Sr., who appointed Tobriner to posts on the Court of Appeal in 1959 and state Supreme Court in 1961, said, 'I'm deeply sorry this fine human being has died. He was one of the finest jurists in the entire United States. His influence on the law, not only of California but of the United States, is profound.'
A Tobriner opinion in 1976 opened the way for racial busing in Los Angeles County to alleviate school segregation. That decision was overturned by the voters in 1979 with passage of Proposition 1 which is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Although Tobriner was the court's labor expert, he wrote decisions later that were adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court, allowed cities to ban billboards and prohibited public utilities from refusing to hire homosexuals.
In 1965 Tobriner's reasoning in People vs. Dorado presaged the U.S. Supreme Court and required California law officers to inform suspects of their right to counsel and to remain silent.
The next year, in the landmark Miranda decision, the U.S. Supreme Court virtually adopted Tobriner's reasoning outlined in the Dorado case to require police nationwide to inform suspects of their rights.
In the Marvin vs. Marvin case, Tobriner wrote the court's opinion that for the first time allowed unmarried partners who live together to sue for division of the property when they separate. The case invented what came to be known as 'palimony.'
Tobriner, a San Francisco native, obtained three advanced degrees at Harvard, University of Santa Clara and the University of California Law School at Berkeley. At Harvard he graduated magna cum laude.
His career was clouded when he was accused of withholding a controversial court decision until after the 1978 general election so as not injure Chief Justice Rose Bird's chances for voter confirmation. Tobriner repeatedly denied that he had done so and the court was cleared of the charges in a historic investigation by the state Commission on Judicial Performance.
Tobriner was an activist who believed judges must accomodate the law to an ever changing society. He once said, 'If that is why I am called a liberal, then I am proud.'
Tobriner is survived by his wife, Rosabelle, and his sons, Michael and Stephen.
A private ceremony for the immediate family will be held Friday. A memorial service has been scheduled at noon Tuesday in Temple Emanu-El, San Francisco.