Attorney Brian Barnard Dead At 67
Salt Lake City - September 4, 2012 - (SALT TV NETWORK) Brian Barnard, one of Utah's foremost civil rights attorneys has died.
According to a statement released by his colleagues at the Utah Legal Clinic, the 67-year-old Barnard "passed away peacefully in his sleep" over the course of the Labor Day weekend.
A cause of death has yet to be released.
“It’s a great loss for us and Brian’s loved ones and also for the legal community in Utah,” said Stewart Gollan, one of Barnard's longtime legal partners. “Brian changed the landscape of the legal community in very profound ways and gave a voice to literally tens of thousands of people who had nowhere else to turn."
Barnard had been in the forefront of some of Utah's most controversial civil rights cases in a career that spanned more than forty years. Most often he found himself at odds with public opinion, yet gained a reputation as a fearless advocate for the downtrodden and disenfranchised.
"A skilled attorney, Brian spent his career advocating for those who lacked a choice or the power to do so on their own," the Utah Legal Clinic said Monday. "Brian represented homeless panhandlers, women denied access to a myriad of institutions on account of their gender, members of unpopular faiths, prisoners forced to live in deplorable conditions and victims of police brutality. We live in a more just world for his having been with us."
Barnard recently represented, and won, a contentious lawsuit filed by an out state athiest group to keep the Utah Highway Patrol from erecting memorial crosses to fallen troopers on Utah's public lands. The case created a firestorm of controversy and ended up before the 10th District Federal Court in Denver. There the judges ruled in favor of the athiests, who claimed the crosses were tantamount to a state sanctioned endorsement of Christianity. That finding was upheld again in 2011, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided against hearing the case after considering arguments both for and against the 10th District Court's ruling made by Barnard and Utah's Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
Tuesday, Shurtleff paid tribute to his lontime rival, releasing a statement via Twitter, which read, “I mourn loss of premier defender of civil liberties. Brian Barnard was opposite me 20 yrs in court but epitomized zealous client advocacy.”
Shutleff's sentiments were echoed by the Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. In a prepared statement Monday afternoon, the ACLU called Barnard's death a huge loss to the community.
"Whenever anyone thinks of a civil rights lawyer in Utah, they think of Brian Barnard," the ACLU said. "He has stood up for the rights of the marginalized and vulnerable for decades and has been instrumental in moving civil rights forward."