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Obituaries

William Orrick, 87; Judge in Hearst, Desegregation Cases

August 18, 2003|From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — William Orrick, a retired federal judge whose long career included sentencing Patty Hearst and handling a 23-year school desegregation case, died in his sleep Friday of natural causes. He was 87.

Appointed to the U.S. District Court by President Nixon in 1974, Orrick oversaw high-profile cases with a firm hand and an occasionally gruff demeanor.

After the death of another judge, Orrick inherited the Hearst case in 1977. The newspaper heiress had been convicted of joining her kidnappers in a bank robbery, and Orrick sentenced her to seven years in prison. Later, President Carter commuted the sentence after Hearst had served 21 months, and President Clinton pardoned her.

Beginning in 1978, Orrick also handled the long-running school desegregation case in San Francisco. He approved a desegregation plan in 1983, although years later he ordered the district to stop using race as a factor in assigning students to schools.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Orrick attended Yale and then returned west for law school at the UC Berkeley campus.

Orrick served in the Army in World War II and then, after working in his father's San Francisco law firm, went to work for the Kennedy administration in the early 1960s. Among his assignments for the Department of Justice was working to protect the "Freedom Riders," who sought to integrate buses in the South.

After returning to private practice, he was appointed to the federal bench by Nixon in a compromise with California's two Democratic U.S. senators.

Orrick is survived by his wife, Suzanne; three children; and six grandchildren.

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