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Judge Stephen Reinhardt, a prominent liberal judge of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, has died.
Appointed by President Carter 37 years ago, Reinhardt died unexpectedly when he suffered a heart attack at his dermatologist's office. He was 87.
Fellow jurists said he was "deeply principled, fiercely passionate" about his work. Judge Sidney R. Thomas, chief judge of the Ninth Circuit, said they lost a friend and a colleague.
"He will be remembered as one of the giants of the federal bench," Thomas said. "He had a great life that ended much too soon."
Reinhardt wrote key decisions on controversial topics such as abortion, marriage equality, and assisted suicide. He also criticized the criminal justice system, targeting prison conditions and the death penalty.
A graduate of Yale Law School, Reinhardt went from trial lawyer to appeals court judge in 1980. He soon found his calling as the "liberal lion" on the court.
Conservatives often railed against Reinhardt, reported the Los Angeles Times. Critics said he never voted to uphold a death sentence.
Change in the Court
With Reinhardt's passing, court-watchers were quick to note that it gives President Trump another chance to remold the federal judiciary. He has already appointed 14 federal judges and faster than President Obama did during his eight years.
In the Ninth Circuit, the balance between liberals and conservatives is changing. Sixteen of the 22 active judges were elevated by Democrats; six by Republicans.
Trump has nominated two more in the circuit, and now has the opportunity to replace Reinhardt.