Judge Charles Smiley passed along this rememberance of Judge Kenneth M. Burr
It is with sadness that I report the passing of retired Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kenneth M. Burr. He died peacefully last Thursday, March 30, 2023, at 7 a.m.
Ken enjoyed a long, successful law career in private practice and as a prosecutor. After spending five years practicing in Southern California, he joined the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office in 1979. There, he helped start the office’s sexual assault unit and went on to try many high-profile cases in our courts. A simple internet search of his name will associate him with prosecuting or deciding some of the most news-worthy cases occurring in the county.
He tried numerous cases while in the DA’s Office. A majority of those jury trials were murders and sexual assault cases, many of which garnered extensive media attention locally and nationally. The expertise gathered from these trials led to Ken becoming a sought-after trainer and lecturer to prosecutors and law enforcement agencies. One of the cases that received national attention involved the 1989 murder of Huey Newton. His last eight years in the DA’s office were spent as a Senior Deputy District Attorney.
Judge Burr was appointed to the bench in 1997 by Governor Pete Wilson. On the bench as in practice, he favored trial assignments and continued to hear some of our toughest criminal and civil cases. In a Recorder interview from 2010, he shared how much he enjoyed working with lawyers. “Good trial lawyers,” he said, “I find to be a pleasure to watch, because that’s my background; I appreciate the craft and enjoy it when it’s practiced at a good level.”
The judge was a respected mentor to many. “I can’t overstate how important it was to have seen somebody like him do his work,” attorney Phil Vaughns once said of Judge Burr, whom he considered a mentor while in the DA’s office. Annie Esposito, Alameda County Senior Assistant District Attorney, tried several felony cases before the judge and recalls learning “much from him on trial strategies, presentation, and how to effectively communicate complex laws to the jury; he was extremely generous with his time and advice . . .”
Ken was also an accomplished triathlete and master swimmer. Of his classy style sense, one colleague recently shared that “No one could beat him in the fashion department!”
Judge Burr is a past member of the Earl Warren American Inns of Court. He obtained his J.D. from Southwestern Law School in 1974.
A memorial celebrating his life is planned for May 12, 2023, at the Angel Valley Funeral Home in Tucson, Arizona. Condolences may be sent to his wife at: Linda Burr, 4431 North Camino Sumo, Tucson, AZ 85718
Judge Burr will be greatly missed.
Photo from ACERA.