Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Frances Burks Newman, a longtime legal worker and widow of California Supreme Court Justice Frank Newman, died in a Walnut Creek hospital on June 11. She was 94.

A memorial service is scheduled for Sept. 28 at the UC Berkeley Faculty Club. The family suggests memorial contributions to Human Rights Advocates, P.O. Box 5675, Berkeley, CA 94705, or to the Frank C. Newman International Human Rights Law Clinic, USF School of Law, 2130 Fulton St., San Francisco, CA 94117.

(Frances had been a long-time member of our Lamorinda Democratic Club, we will miss her.)

Ms. Newman, a Los Angeles native, grew up in Berkeley and Palo Alto and attended Stanford University, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology in 1935 and 1936. While working at the Institute of Child Welfare at UC Berkeley after graduation, she met her future husband, who was playing at a piano bar to help pay his way through law school at Boalt Hall.

They married in 1940. Justice Newman became an international human rights lawyer and advocate, spent decades on the Boalt Hall faculty and five years as the school’s dean, and was appointed to the state’s high court by Gov. Jerry Brown in 1977.

Before retiring in 1982, he wrote rulings striking down a city ordinance that limited the number of unrelated people who could live at a home, and establishing the right to distribute political material at privately owned shopping centers. He died in 1996.

Ms. Newman began a career in 1971 as a paralegal, a profession that had been recognized by the American Bar Association only two years earlier, and worked at San Francisco law firms for 27 years before retiring in 1998. She was a founding member of the San Francisco Association of Legal Assistants and developed and taught one of the first courses for legal assistants at City College of San Francisco, said her daughter, Holly Newman.

After her husband’s death, Ms. Newman remained a financial supporter of Human Rights Advocates, a nonprofit organization he and his students had founded in 1978. She was also instrumental in getting the University of San Francisco to name the Frank C. Newman International Human Rights Law Clinic, her family said.

A resident of Orinda, she performed with choral groups throughout her life and was a member of Berkeley’s University Chorus until 2006, her daughter said.

Ms. Newman is survived by her daughter, Holly, of Petaluma.

A memorial service is scheduled for Sept. 28 at the UC Berkeley Faculty Club. The family suggests memorial contributions to Human Rights Advocates, P.O. Box 5675, Berkeley, CA 94705, or to the Frank C. Newman International Human Rights Law Clinic, USF School of Law, 2130 Fulton St., San Francisco, CA 94117.