Justice Broussard, 'talented jurist'

Allen E. Broussard, who served as a liberal dissenter for many of his 10 years on the California Supreme Court, died Nov. 5 at his Oakland home after a brief illness. He was 67.

Broussard, the second black man appointed to the high court, wrote key opinions on the death penalty and the environment. "I've had a tremendously satisfying career," Broussard said at his 1991 retirement from the bench. "I've had the opportunity to make a contribution."

Appointed by then Gov. Edmund "Jerry" Brown in 1981, Broussard joined the liberal majority of the court, headed by Chief Justice Rose Bird. He wrote a key opinion two years later requiring proof of intent to kill in most death penalty cases, giving the court the legal basis for overturning scores of death penalty verdicts.

Because he was elected to a 12-year term one year after his appointment, he did not face the wrath of voters, who in 1986 ousted Bird and two other justices.

But he became a frequent lone dissenter on the more conservative court. In 1987, when the court overturned his death penalty decision and permitted death sentences without proof of intent to kill, Broussard wrote in dissent: "Periodically, when the political winds gust in a new direction, it becomes necessary to remind all concerned of the virtues of a steady course."

In 1983, Broussard wrote an important environmental opinion establishing the state's authority to protect the environment by restricting diversion of water from lakes and streams. That ruling also was reversed several years later despite his dissent.

Broussard grew up in segregated southwestern Louisiana, where in his last year of high school, a favorite teacher suggested he consider law as a career. Following graduation from the University of California at Berkeley, he pursued that suggestion and received his law degree from Boalt Hall, where he was in the top 10 percent of the class.

After developing a thriving practice with future Oakland Mayor Lionel Wilson, Broussard was appointed to the municipal bench in 1964, succeeding his former law partner and beginning a 27-year career as a jurist.

He was elevated in 1975 to the Alameda County Superior Court, where he was presiding judge at the time of his appointment to the Supreme Court.

Bird described her former colleague as "a lovely human being . . . a talented jurist and a superb public servant." Broussard "was highly respected as an honorable man by the attorneys who appeared before him and the justices with whom he worked," added former Supreme Court Justice John A. Arguelles.

Broussard was the first black president of the California Judges Association, and received many awards including 1988 Jurist of the Year from the John Langston Bar Association, 1989 Appellate Justice of the Year from the California Trial Lawyers Association, and the California Law Review Alumnus of the Year in 1990.

He was a partner in Coblentz, Cahen, McCabe & Breyer in San Francisco and co-chair of the Judicial Council's Advisory Committee on Race and Ethnic Bias, which was reviewing the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities in the courts.

Broussard is survived by his wife, Odessa, sons Keith of San Francisco and Craig of Oakland, his mother Eugenia Broussard, sister Rita and brother James.