Heart Attack Hospitalizes U.S. Judge Noonan

LEGAL AFFAIRS WRITER

Federal appeals court Judge John T. Noonan, a pivotal and controversial figure in the Robert Alton Harris case, remained hospitalized Friday after suffering a heart attack.

Noonan, 65, was admitted to the cardiac care unit of Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley on Wednesday afternoon after complaining of chest pains. A hospital spokeswoman said Friday that Noonan was in critical but stable condition and resting comfortably.

An aide to the judge said Friday that Noonan had telephoned the office and "sounded good." Staff members have been advised that the judge's prognosis is good, the aide said.

Noonan was a professor at the UC Berkeley Law School in 1985 when he was appointed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by President Ronald Reagan. Known for his views opposing abortion, Noonan quickly established a reputation for independence on the appeals court.

In March, 1990, Noonan stunned state prosecutors when he issued an order blocking the execution of Harris three days before the condemned slayer was to go to the gas chamber. Noonan said Harris was entitled to more time to try to show that he was denied adequate psychiatric assistance at his 1979 trial for the murder of two San Diego teen-agers.

Last April 20, Noonan issued a sharp dissent in a 2 to 1 appellate panel decision overturning a federal district judge's order blocking Harris' execution while Death Row inmates challenged the use of lethal gas as cruel and unusual punishment.

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