Rex Sater, longtime Sonoma County judge, dies at 84

  • 10/4/2005: A1: Rex Sater
    PC: Rex Sater at home, with family photoghraphs. Sater has retired, but will be a sub on the bench from time to time. Local photos news

Retired Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Rex Sater, a revered jurist credited with humanizing family-law court statewide by pressing couples in divorce to think of their children and work out their disputes themselves, died Friday.

Sater was the county's most liberal judge when Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him to the bench in 1976 and was regarded as a humble, intellectual and compassionate legal titan when he stepped down in 1997. He was 84.

The former stage actor, faithful Grateful Dead fan and natural wit suffered the effects of several strokes prior to his death at the Santa Rosa home he shared with his wife of 55 years, Kate Sater.

"He was easy to be with," she said. "He was just a lovely man."

When the Virginia-born and Alabama-reared Sater was assigned to handle family law hearings in 1980, landing that assignment was to draw the short straw.

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