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Former California Supreme Court Justice David Eagleson died Friday in Los Angeles following a brief illness. He was 78. Eagleson’s four-year run on the state’s high court began after three justices opposed to the death penalty were voted off the bench in 1986. He wrote 53 majority opinions during his tenure. “California today lost an outstanding jurist who made great contributions to the development of the law and the administration of justice in this state. I worked closely with Justice Eagleson during his terms as presiding judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court and president of the California Judges Association and join the many who feel a great loss at his passing,” Chief Justice Ronald George said in a statement released by the court. After a 20-year career as an Orange County litigator, Eagleson started his judicial career on the Los Angeles County bench in 1970, eventually rising to presiding judge in 1981. He served on the Second District Court of Appeal before Gov. George Deukmejian appointed him to the Supreme Court. After retiring in 1991, Eagleson worked as a private arbitrator. He was replaced on the bench by Justice Marvin Baxter. Eagleson and former Justices John Arguelles and Marcus Kaufman all took the bench in March 1987, replacing former Justice Rose Bird and two others kicked off the bench during retention elections. The three drew straws to determine seniority — Eagleson got the second straw. All left the bench within a few years. Among his better-known decisions is a 1989 ruling allowing the use of psychological profiles in criminal trials. 49 Cal.3d 1136. Eagleson also penned Delaney v. Superior Court, 50 Cal.3d 785, which extended the state’s shield law to any sort of information a journalist might collect, not just confidential information. However, he also ruled that in criminal cases journalists could sometimes be compelled to testify. After retirement, Eagleson was one of six private judges who wrote to the Supreme Court to complain that a court of appeal ruling blasting private judging was unfair. In 1997, the Supreme Court vacated the ruling. A World War II veteran, Eagleson attended University of Southern California Law School, graduating in 1950. Funeral services are pending.

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