Robert A. Barnett
1929 - 2020
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Robert A. Barnett Robert Aaron Barnett passed away peacefully on June 9, 2020 in San Rafael. He was 90. Robert was born in Manhattan, New York to entrepreneur Rueben Barnett of England and activist Fanny Rosenbloom of Romania. He had two younger brothers, Richard and Frank. Robert enjoyed a full life of study, music, and adventure. As a boy, Robert played clarinet, emulating his hero, Benny Goodman. He excelled at chess, winning tournaments into his 60s. He loved reading history and nature books, and was a stamp collector. He attended the Bronx High School of Science for gifted kids. At age 17, Robert took a Greyhound bus to Chicago, where he hitch-hiked solo along Route 66 to Los Angeles. His first job was as a busboy at Clifton's. There, he fell in love with Los Angeles. The sun, glamour, sailing. It was 1947. The war was over. Colleges filled up and USC called his name. Robert played the clarinet with the Trojan Marching Band, "Fight on!" His outgoing personality led to being president of his ZBT fraternity. He bought a sailboat with friends, frequenting Catalina. In 1951, he earned a BA in Philosophy from USC, and in 1955, a law degree from Harvard University. He met his first wife, Joyce Rosenberg, at a "jolly-up" dance at Brandeis University in Boston, Mass. In 1959, they married and started a family in Los Angeles. They had two children, Donna and Ethan Barnett. Robert's career included: L.A. defense attorney for the flamboyant Gladys Towles Root but Robert preferred less contentious work, and became an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) with the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC). He served from 1963-2014 at the PUC, with a stint at AirCal as General Counsel from 1978-1984. Robert was appointed Chief Administrative Law Judge at the PUC from 1975-1978, and throughout his career was involved in major decisions. He appeared before the Supreme Court of California, the 9th Federal Court of Appeals, and the Superior Court. In 1978, he was admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court. As a CPUC ALJ, Robert was the presiding officer for the PG&E bankruptcy, the Diablo Canyon review of construction, Southern California Edison (SCE) and SoCal Gas rate cases, as well as cases regarding water, trucking and environmental impact reports. Robert loved skiing in his younger days and also routinely participated in poker tournaments. He wrote and directed musicals performed by The Single Ski Club of Los Angeles. He had a sharp wit and loved trivia. He was particularly proud of almost becoming a contestant on the TV show, Jeopardy, "if it weren't for that clicker!" Robert met his second wife, Nola Pino, while both were employed at the PUC in San Francisco. Married in 1983, they enjoyed 60+ world cruises, themed parties in festive getups, and daily crossword puzzles. "Bob," as he was more commonly known, is remembered by friends and family as, "The nicest man!" He will be dearly missed by his wife Nola Barnett, and surviving family members: Donna Barnett, Ethan Barnett, and grandchildren Sam and Andrew Barnett; Nola's son, Warren Pino and his children, Amy Moses, and Ryan and Allison Pino. Bob enjoyed a special bond with brother-in-law, Franklin Rosenberg, niece Lynne Shulman, and his surviving best friend of 72 years, Merle Horwitz, who reflected, "He was a dear friend. A good guy. Indeed, he was a mensch." Rest in peace.

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Published in Marin Independent Journal on Jul. 5, 2020.
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July 12, 2020
I worked with Bob on several cases at the PUC. In fact, my last case was with him. He was a brilliant and principled judge. It was always such a pleasure to be around him. My sympathies to his family. Geoffrey Brown

July 9, 2020
My dad was a man of character, who wanted everyone to be happy, get along, and treat each other well, emphasizing kindness, fairness and integrity. I miss his sharp wit and out-of-the-blue zingers. I miss picking up the phone and on the other end having my dad, a man, who genuinely cared about my happiness, health, and safety. Sometimes when dad could still speak well, I'd write things down to remember his warmth:

I love you, Donna.
I want you to be happy.
I hope you go to a nice restaurant.
Come up and well give you a birthday party.
And make sure to come for the buffet. :-)

One particular quality I admiredwas Dad's ability to self-reflect and strive to do his best. If he ever believed he made a mistake due to new information or self-reflection, he'd say so and course correct. I remember one time as a teenager, he apologized for a mistake that had hurt me. He wanted me to know that he acknowledged his part and wanted to make it up. That self-reflection and accountability meant a lot. Dad was a humble man, an accepting man, a man with a generous spirit, who radiated kindness.

Thank you for all the years and giving me life!

Rest in peace, Dad.


July 9, 2020
I only knew Robert Barnett from my early childhood. He was quite the personality, always smiling and joking, a true affirmer of life. He did so much. His story is an inspiration
I am deeply sorry for my friend Donna going back to first grade. What an amazing man. He did so very much.
July 6, 2020
Absolutely the nicest man with the greatest smile. He will be missed. Thank you for this informative write up on a wonderful gentleman.
David Knepler
July 5, 2020
ALJ Barnett was the presiding judge for virtually all cases I participated in relating to SONGS and Diablo Canyon until 2014. While decisions were not always as I hoped, he always treated public participants fairly and always greeted me with a smile. It was a pleasure to read his history and I add my voice to those who will miss this special man.
Rochelle Becker
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