Judge Beezer, Author of Landmark ‘Napster’ Case Dies

Judge Robert R. Beezer

Judge Robert R. Beezer died of lung cancer March 30 after serving 28 years on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  President Ronald Reagan nominated him to the court in 1984, where he became part of the conservative wing of the court.

He may be best known for several high profile cases, including writing the majority opinion in the landmark Napster, Inc. case that found copyright violation for the sharing of digital copies of music between listeners, known as peer-to-peer sharing .

It was the first case to address whether file sharing was fair use or infringing and set the standard for much of the law that followed.  [A&M Records Inc. v. Napster, Inc. 2001]

He also changed the standard for sex discrimination cases in a 1991 opinion interpreting Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by saying the proper test for sex discrimination is whether a “reasonable woman” would find the conduct so severe as to alter the job conditions.  Previously the standard was a “reasonable person.”

[Ellison v. Brady, 1991]  The suit was brought by a woman who received unwanted love letters from a male colleague.

Despite failing eyesight in recent years, he used computer technology to translate written documents to audio files and continued to produce important decisions.

In 2010, he wrote the opinion in the Anna Nicole Smith case, which narrowed the proceedings over which bankruptcy courts have jurisdiction.  It has become an important interpretation of the power of congress to delegate judicial power. [Marshall v. Stern, 2010]

Beezer began the practice of law  in 1956 and was from Seattle.  He practiced with the fimr of Schweppe, Doolittle, Krug, Tausend & Beezer until his appointment to the court.

He received his law degree and undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia.



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