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Former State Senator, Justice Joseph Austin Rattigan

Justice Joseph Rattigan

pal: Past Active Life (PAL)

Joseph Austin Rattigan Died peacefully surrounded by his family on May 12, 2007. A resident of Sonoma County for 58 years, he practiced law in Santa Rosa before his 1958 election to the California State Senate where he served two terms.

In his Senate tenure he established the State’s first health care plan for seniors paving the way for Medi-Cal, won passage of the Rumford Fair Housing Act barring racial discrimination in housing, and sponsored legislation that founded Sonoma State University.

He served 17 years as a justice on the California Court of Appeal and later, a term on the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

He retired from public life with more than 30 years of dedicated service to the people of Sonoma County and California.

Joe was a native of Washington, DC, and graduated from Catholic University of America in 1940 and from Stanford University Law School in 1947.

He served during World War II as a US Navy lieutenant and PT boat captain in the Philippines.

A lifelong Democrat, he was also a founding member of St. Eugene Parish, an active member and a past president of Sonoma County Bar Association, and a member of numerous civic, charitable, and fraternal organizations including the Active 20-30 Club of Santa Rosa #50, Knights of Columbus, Peter Tare (a PT boat veterans’ organization), Japanese American Citizens League and the ACLU.

He was the first recipient of the Sonoma County Bar Association Careers of Distinction Award and recipient of the League of California Cities Lifetime Achievement Award.

Santa Rosa’s State Office Building was named in his honor.

He was an interested and passionate student of Civil War history.

Joe will be missed and remembered for his keen intellect, sharp wit, and engaging sense of humor.

He is survived by Betty, his wife of 63 years; his six children: Catharine, Anne, Michael, Tom, Patrick, and Tim, and their families; and his sister Eleanor Rubin of Menlo Park.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, PO Box 4900, Santa Rosa, CA 95402. A Memorial Mass celebrating Joe’s life will be held on Friday, May 18, 2007 at 4:00 PM at St. Eugene Cathedral in Santa Rosa, CA. Directors: LAFFERTY & SMITH COLONIAL CHAPEL, Santa Rosa, CA (707) 539-2921.


Current Position(s)

  • Past Active
  • Board Member

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