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SAN JOSE — Burton Wines, a South Bay civil litigator admired for his sharp, analytical mind and emphasis on brevity, has died. He was 82. Wines died on Dec. 23 after a three-year struggle with bladder cancer, his son, Morgan, said. Wines worked as a civil litigator for the better part of five decades but rarely sought the spotlight despite his strong reputation. He practiced in San Francisco and Oakland before moving to San Jose in 1962, where he spent the bulk of his career and started the firm now known as Robinson & Wood. Wines was revered by clients, judges and other attorneys for his ability to size up a case immediately, said Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Socrates “Pete” Manoukian, his former partner and longtime friend. While other attorneys would spend countless hours in depositions, Manoukian said Wines could spend less than an hour with a witness and still be better prepared for trial than opposing attorneys. “There was a steady stream of lawyers and even judges that came to him for representation,” said Manoukian, who worked as a civil defense lawyer with Wines from 1983-93 at Wines & Manoukian in San Jose. The firm was hired at one point to defend a hospital sued by a 17-year-old girl who claimed she couldn’t get pregnant after a ruptured tubal pregnancy. Manoukian, then a young lawyer, asked Wines why a key deposition in the case was only 29 pages long. Manoukian said Wines’ answer was, as usual, to the point. “He told me that every important question had been asked and answered, and it was,” Manoukian said. “There are people who pride themselves on five- and 10-day depositions that are just an exercise in posturing. But he didn’t posture. He was a lawyer’s lawyer.” Born in Elko County, Nevada, in 1922, Wines was the youngest of seven children. He lived in Nevada until his late teens when his mother brought him to San Francisco. He later worked as a theater usher and an elevator operator in downtown San Francisco and was a naval intelligence officer in World War II, Manoukian said. Wines graduated from the University of San Francisco School of Law and passed the bar in 1949. Morgan Wines said his father’s succinctness was rooted in his Jesuit education and love of Roman orator and philosopher Cicero. “His rhetorical model was Cicero, who believed in the virtue of concision,” Morgan Wines said, adding that his father wrote a pamphlet detailing key points of trial procedure for a Boalt Hall School of Law class in a little more than 20 pages. “He thought you should always stick to the facts and be of reasonable length. And he didn’t know why you needed to know someone’s mother’s name to depose them,” Morgan Wines said. San Jose solo J. Thomas Diepenbrock, who practiced with Wines in the mid-’90s, remembers his former partner as “a man of few words, but he had credibility before a jury.” “I can’t even begin to remember the number of jury trials he did, but it was like two or three hundred,” he said. Wines was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Frances, in July 2004. He is survived by his son, a granddaughter and a sister.

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