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Mathew Oscar Tobriner Edit Profile

state justice

Mathew Oscar Tobriner, state justice. Bar: California 1928. Delaware Democratic National Convention, 1956; executive committee gubernatorial campaign, 1958; Member San Francisco Legal Aid Society (president 1961), Jewish Community Relations Council (chairman 1962-1964), Order of Coif (honorary), Phi Beta Kappa, Delta Sigma Rho.


Tobriner, Mathew Oscar was born on April 2, 1904 in San Francisco, California, United States. Son of Oscar and Maude (Lezinsky) Tobriner.


AB, Stanford University, 1924. Master of Arts, Stanford University, 1925. Bachelor of Laws, Harvard University, 1927.

Doctor of Juridical Science, University California, 1932. Doctor of Laws, University Santa Clara, University San Diego.


An appointee of Democratic Governor Pat Brown, he had worked as a labor lawyer until 1959, when Brown appointed him to the California Court of Appeal. After three years on the Court of Appeal, Tobriner was appointed by Brown to the Supreme Court. As one of the three members on the California Commission on Judicial Appointments, Tobriner cast the deciding vote in approving the nomination of Rose Bird as the first female Chief Justice on the California Supreme Court.

Tobriner was admitted before the California Bar in April 1928. Tobriner wrote the 1974 decision of Green v. Superior Court, 517 P.2d 1168, that established the doctrine of implied warranty of habitability in residential leases in California, which requires landlords to maintain leased dwellings in a habitable condition.

Tobriner wrote the 1976 decision of Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California, 17 Cal. 3d 425, 551 P.2d 334, 131 Cal.

Rptr. 14 (Cal 1976), the ruling that held that mental health professionals have a duty to protect individuals who are being threatened with bodily harm by a patient. He famously wrote, "...the confidential character of patient-psychotherapist communications must yield to the extent that disclosure is essential to avert danger to others. The protective privilege ends where the public peril begins..." Tobriner also wrote the majority opinion in People v.

Weighing the asserted compelling state interest in controlling drug abuse with the Free Exercise Clause, he found that the balance favored constitutional protection of the peyote use and practice, stating: One of Tobriner's law clerks was Jerry Brown, the son of Governor Pat Brown, who had appointed Tobriner to the Court and who was still Governor when the younger Brown clerked for Tobriner. Jerry Brown would serve as Governor of California from 1975–1983 and again in 2011, and Attorney General of California from 2007 to 2011. Another of Tobriner's law clerks, Laurence Tribe, became a professor of law at Harvard University and a preeminent expert on United States constitutional law.


  • Tobriner's grandson, Ben Wildman-Tobriner, is the 2007 World Aquatics Champion in 50-meter freestyle swimming and won a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics.


  • Other Work

    • Author: (with E.G. Mears) Principles and Practices of Cooperative Marketing. Advisory committee Hastings Law Journal, from 1959. Contributor articles to legal journals.


Woody, 394 P.2d 813 (Cal 1964), overturning a conviction for peyote use by a Native American Church member on First Amendment grounds.


Delaware Democratic National Convention, 1956. Executive committee gubernatorial campaign, 1958. Member San Francisco Legal Aid Society (president 1961), Jewish Community Relations Council (chairman 1962-1964), Order of Coif (honorary), Phi Beta Kappa, Delta Sigma Rho.


Married Rosabelle Rose, May 19, 1939. Children: Michael Charles, Stephen Oscar.

Oscar Tobriner

Maude (Lezinsky) Tobriner

Rosabelle Rose

Michael Charles Tobriner

Stephen Oscar Tobriner