The Santa Clara Law community mourns the loss of Ray Bernstein, who served as a clinical professor of law at Santa Clara Law from 2007-16. Ray died on December 18 from injuries suffered in a bicycle accident.
A graduate of Michigan State University and Yale Law School, Ray served as a law clerk for the Honorable Fern M. Smith of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and later served as Senior Staff Attorney, Criminal Research Division, for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Ray also practiced civil and criminal law in California and received numerous awards for his pro bono service. Ray was also a devoted member of his San Francisco synagogue, Congregation Sha’ar Zahav. Read his obituary here.
“Those of us who worked with Ray loved him because he was such a kind and thoughtful person. He cared about making the world a more just place and he was extremely thoughtful about his colleagues and his students.,” wrote Santa Clara Law Clinical Professors Adriana Duffy-Hörling and Evangeline Abriel in a remembrance of Ray (See below). A memorial celebration was held on December 23 (in Coloma and over Zoom), and loved ones also sat shiva on 12/23 and 12/27.
Remembering Ray Bernstein, a wonderful colleague
By Santa Clara Law Clinical Professors Adriana Duffy-Hörling and Evangeline Abriel
On December 18, 2020, Santa Clara Law lost a beloved member of our community, Ray Bernstein. Ray came to Santa Clara Law in 2007 and taught legal analysis, research, and writing as an associate clinical professor of law until he left in 2016 to care for his aging parents. In 2016, his colleagues were saddened by his retirement, but we never imagined that, four years later, we would be bidding him a more permanent farewell. We have missed him since he left and are devastated by the news of his passing.
Those of us who worked with Ray loved him because he was such a kind and thoughtful person. He cared about making the world a more just place and he was extremely thoughtful about his colleagues and his students.
His care for his students included holding them to high standards. For this reason, he was much sought after as a mooter in both simulated and live clinic cases. He could be a terrifying questioner, but his thoughtful preparation and comments always improved everything about the arguments.
Working with Ray was humbling in the best possible way. His intelligence and insight showed in so many aspects of his collaboration with his colleagues. We could always count on Ray to pinpoint instantly any flaws in whatever ideas we proposed, and he also offered ideas to improve them. He had a gift for boiling a situation down to a pithy summary and putting things into perspective, usually in a very funny way. His incisive wit was another defining characteristic, yet he used it kindly, making others feel in on the joke and never the butt of it. He laughed a lot and with his whole body.
Although Ray was unassuming in the extreme, we know that he was loved for his extensive work outside the law school. He was honored by the San Francisco Bar Association five times for his volunteer service, which must be a record. He was an active member of his synagogue, Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco, where he was known as a scholar of the Torah, as a presenter of thoughtful, meaningful sermons, and as a cherished announcer of congregational news.
Ray’s talents extended beyond the law. He was a gifted artist, using geometric patterns and colors in intricate and beautiful ways. He also knit, including making blankets for his friends’ newborns. And his handwriting was truly a thing of beauty—precise and elegant.
No description of Ray would be complete without mention of his love of rodents—of all things that nibble. Walking across campus with him meant various stops to observe Santa Clara squirrels.
At times, Ray would have one believe that he was a pessimist. But he spent his career working on behalf of students, colleagues, clients, and causes he believed in. If that’s not an optimist, we don’t know what is.
We miss you, Ray.