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News & Press: Montana News

9th Circuit Senior Judge Noonan dies at 90

Friday, April 21, 2017  
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Senior Circuit Judge John Noonan, whose tenure on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals spanned three decades, died Monday at age 90.

“Judge Noonan was a distinguished jurist and an eminent scholar with a particular focus on the historical development of moral concepts. He was well known and highly respected by the bench and bar and had many admirers in academia,” Chief Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas of Billings said in a statement announcing Noonan’s death.

Noonan, a Boston native, was appointed to the court in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan.Se served actively for 11 years, assuming senior status in 1996.

One of the more noteworthy among his 1,080 legal opinions and dissents was Compassion in Dying v. State of Washington, a 1995 appeal arising out of the first federal litigation related to physician-assisted suicide by terminally ill patients. Judge Noonan authored the opinion in the 2-1 decision, reversing a lower court finding that a state law prohibiting assisted suicide was unconstitutional. Although made moot when the case went en banc, the decision was ultimately upheld by a unanimous Supreme Court.

Noonan authored 13 books on law, politics and religion, including “Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists.” The 1966 work is thought to have influenced Pope Paul VI’s decision to look into birth control, and the pope appointed Noonan to serve on a papal commission to study the issue.

Noonan earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1947. He also studied English Literature at Cambridge, then went on to earn a master’s degree and Ph.D. in philosophy from The Catholic University of America.