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Former First District Court of Appeal Justice John “Dick” Benson died of cancer Friday. He was 75. First appointed to the San Francisco Superior Court bench by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, Benson was a judicial conservative liked by colleagues on both sides of the ideological fence. He was also known for his common touch. “Of all of the people that have known him, if you ask them who their best friend was he’d be right at the top of the list. He was such a warm, friendly, honest, engaging man,” said retired Justice J. Clinton Peterson. “He’d go out of his way to help anybody. The employees at the court all loved the guy.” After 12 years as a trial judge, Benson was elevated to the appeal court in 1986 by Gov. Pete Wilson. He retired in 1994 to work for the private arbitration service JAMS. “He was a very unusual person in many ways. I think Dick Benson took the law, as he took everything else in life, very seriously,” said First District Court of Appeal Justice J. Anthony Kline. “He was deeply committed to the law, and although he and I disagreed from time to time � it never became so heated that our mutual affection was affected.” Retired Justice Daniel “Mike” Hanlon said Benson remained very involved with his alma mater, the University of San Francisco, where he graduated in 1955. “For many years he still led cheers at USF events,” Hanlon said of the collegiate cheerleader. Hanlon first met Benson over a deposition in the late 1960s. Benson was doing insurance defense work as a partner at Russ, Benson & McConnell, but was soon elevated to the San Francisco bench. Hanlon recalled that when the first bar survey was done of San Francisco judges in the early 1970s, Benson came in first. “He always understood the problem. He always maintained a sense of humor, and he would laugh at himself sometimes,” Hanlon said. From 1994 until last March, Benson worked at JAMS, building a good reputation resolving complex litigation cases. JAMS CEO Steve Price said Benson was “always a gentleman.” A service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at St. Monica’s Church in Moraga. A second service will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at San Francisco’s St. Ignatius Church.

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