Law Professor John H. Barton dies of bike-accident injuries

Legal career emphasized the interface between science and the law and international law

John H. Barton, 72, a Stanford University law professor whose career emphasized the interface between science and the law, was pronounced dead Aug. 3 as a result of injuries he sustained in a bicycle accident in Los Altos July 14.

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Posted by Mark Chandler
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2009 at 1:50 pm

John Barton was a kind and gentle man whose contributions can not be measured by the enumeration of his accomplishments and publications, many and impressive though they were.

In the fall of 1978, he was my first year law school “small section” professor, teaching me Contracts. He cared a great deal about teaching, and I have many vivid memories from first year of the gentle way in which he made sure everyone in the section understood the principles he was explaining. I'm sure first year Contracts was an unexciting assignment for him as a professor, but he opened up for me a whole new way of thinking about the way people interact in business settings -- from the personal to the global transaction -- how expectations are set, what the law can and can't do for those who are unhappy with the way their transactions worked out. He forced us every day to stand in the shoes of the parties to each of the cases we read. He had one funny habit, too -- there was chalk and blackboards in those days, and he like to press his hand against his lips when waiting for a student to give an answer. By the end of each class, he inevitably had a bright white vertical stripe on his mouth.

He had made a big mid-career switch, from engineer to law teacher, and his interest in things that were real and measurable always played an active role in his approach to the more abstract legal issues we dealt with. In recent years I’ve sat with him at dinners at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, and at law school functions, and had the chance to chat with him about patents and other intellectual property issues he was working on, an interest he took up later in life. I understand from Dean Larry Kramer that Professor Barton had thoroughly reengaged at the Law School. He had original ideas about how to sort out current issues, and had read some pieces I had written or been quoted in, and had very cogent questions -- aiming toward an understanding of the practical to make sure his theories would have real world relevance.

In many ways, he's a symbol to me of what Stanford Law School meant to me -- a very practical man, without ego, eager to teach, eager to learn for himself, and tied to the real world by understanding something of the realms of science and engineering. There was nothing about this man that is not to be admired and emulated.

Mark Chandler, General Counsel, Cisco Systems, Inc.

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Posted by Sarah
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 7, 2009 at 9:13 am

Does anyone have more information about the hit-and-run investigation? It is a real tragedy if a car driver hit the professor and then just left him to die on the side of the road.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 7, 2009 at 11:48 am

Prof barton , rest peacefully.

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Posted by Pat Barrett
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 7, 2009 at 2:45 pm

I echo the thoughts expressed by Mark Chandler. John Barton was also one of my law school professors in the field of international law. John and I were already friends before I went to law school, and his fairmindedness was obvious in the way he treated all the students in the class as equals.

John's deep knowledge and keen insight made it challenging and enjoyable to study under him. He was also ahead of his time in many areas he pursued. For example, he guided me in studiying the interplay of international law and intellectual property law before the term "intellectual property" had caught on. Discussions with him were one of the high points of my Stanford Law School education.

John maintained an interest in what his former students were doing and what new insights they were gaining. I feel blessed to have known John, to have studied under him and to have been able to engage with him over the years.

Pat Barrett

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Posted by sarah
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Is more information available about the hit-and-run investigation?

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Posted by Tamali Sen Gupta
a resident of Stanford
on May 13, 2010 at 2:04 am

I was Professor Barton's JSD student till 1991. He was a wonderful and kind teacher. I learnt so much from him and yet never really thanked him for all that he did for me. It's too late now, but I really would like to contact his family. Does anyone have a way to get through to Julie Barton or his son John or other family? Please mail me at tamalisg

Dr. Tamali Sen Gupta
New Delhi, India

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