Friday, October 01, 2010

My uncle Asher, may he rest in peace

My father is the youngest of five boys. This week marked the end of an era with the passing of one of his brothers. We are all extremely saddened. My father and his remaining three brothers, Emanuel, Mordecai, and Yussel wrote the following obituary. Asher was incredibly accomplished and loved his family very much. I had a great relationship with him, and I already miss him dearly.


Asher Rubin, a retired Deputy Attorney General for the State of California and a devoted husband and father, died peacefully at his home in Marin County on Wednesday, September 29.

Asher was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on November 9, 1936, to Sophie (née Greenberg) and Jacob Rubin, a teacher of Hebrew. In the company of four accomplished brothers, Emanuel, Mordecai, Joseph, and Abba, and a mother who threatened to trade him for one of Eddie Cantor’s daughters, Asher early in life developed an outspoken personality mixed with humor. When Asher was eleven, the family moved to the town of Liberty, in New York’s Catskill Mountains, where he went to high school. He honed his sense of humor while working for six summers as a busboy at the famed Grossingers resort hotel.

Asher graduated from Columbia College in 1958 and then entered Harvard Law School, where he graduated in 1961. His younger brother Joseph was also a student at Harvard while he was there. Asher’s most notable achievement at Harvard was, at a public gathering, telling the feared and formidable professor of law, James Casner from the stage, that his younger brother Joseph was “bitterly disappointed that he was not being called on enough in class.” After graduation, he moved to California to serve as a clerk to Justice Thomas P. White of the California Supreme Court. He joined the office of Attorney General Stanley Mosk in 1963, where he remained until 2001, except for a brief interlude in the Office of the General Counsel of the Peace Corps and on the public relations staff of The Weizmann Institute in Israel.

As a Deputy Attorney General, Asher represented various officials and agencies in appellate and trial litigation involving many of the important political and social issues confronting California from 1962 through his retirement in 2001. He appeared before the United States Supreme Court in two cases, Honig v. Doe and California Human Resources Dept. v. Java, which settled significant disputes regarding special education and unemployment insurance. He appeared before the California Supreme Court in controversial cases that affected reproductive rights, unemployment insurance, industrial safety, and health care benefits. He represented President S.I. Hayakawa during the bitter student strike in 1968–69 at San Francisco State University.

Asher was known for his sense of humor and could not restrain himself, even in court. During the student strike, when Judge Ira Brown asked him whether President Hayakawa would comply with an order of the court, Asher replied that Hayakawa would probably move the campus to San Mateo County. When an attorney for the appellants applied to the Court of Appeal for the second time to file a brief over the page limit allowed by the rules, Asher filed a short reply: “The appellants think it not nifty to have their brief reduced to fifty.” When a federal court judge asked him whether he should recuse himself, he replied, “Right here in front of everybody?” And when he asked another federal judge for extra time to file his brief when George Deukmejian was Attorney General, the judge was reluctant, commenting: “What do you people in the Attorney General’s Office do all day?” Asher replied: “Well, we spend most of our time trying to spell Deukmejian.” The judge granted him a forty-five–day extension.

Asher was active beyond his professional life. At the Attorney General’s Office, he wrote, appeared and sang in holiday skits and wrote poems in honor of innumerable deputies at their retirements (“Do not go gentle into that little cubicle.”). With Morris Bobrow, he wrote musical reviews such as If You’re from Milwaukee, You Must Know Bernie and Premises, Premises. He was also a member of the Tiburon Theater Troupe. His community achievements were many. He was a past president of the Tiburon Peninsula Club, a feature writer for the Nob Hill Gazette, on the board of directors of the San Francisco Jewish Community Center, chairman of the Tiburon Art Festival and a board member of Image for Success.

How would Asher’s many friends describe him? He was a New Yorker. Although of long tenure here, he never assimilated the relaxed rhythms of a Californian. For him, right now was too late, impatience was a virtue, and observing the 90-degree rule on a golf course was for the other guy. In golf as in life, he took it straight from tee to green as fast as he could go. He was always a good friend, helpful and supportive, a strong tennis player on the Tiburon Peninsula Club team, and a delightful poker player and golf partner, although he described his golf game as “painfully average.”

The center of Asher’s life was his family. He is survived by his wife Diane and their two children, Jacob, a student at Stanford Business School, and Shaina, a student at Brooklyn Law School. He was very proud of their accomplishments and he loved them very much.

We are saddened by his passing and we will miss him.