Former District Attorney, Pasadenan John Van de Kamp, Six Others Remembered on Criminal Justice Wall of Fame

Published : Monday, October 30, 2017 | 5:32 AM

John Van de Kamp

John Van de Kamp

Former District Attorney John Van de Kamp, a lifetime Pasadena resident before he passed away in March, was honored Friday along with a former presiding judge and five defense attorneys at the Judges Arthur L. Alarcón and Warren L. Ettinger Criminal Justice Wall of Fame ceremony in downtown Los Angeles.

The Criminal Wall of Justice is located at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center, named after the first female lawyer on the West Coast, who pioneered the idea of the public defender.

The Wall of Fame was created in 2006 to honor late judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys whose outstanding conduct and professionalism made significant contributions to the criminal justice system during their lifetimes.

Van de Kamp was District Attorney of Los Angeles County from 1975 to 1982, where he created the office’s first specialized units focused on prosecuting gang violence, sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. He also established a dedicated unit to assist victims of crime. From 1983 to 1991, he was California’s Attorney General.

Van de Kamp was born in 1936 and grew up in Pasadena where he attended John Muir High School.

In a 2015 verbal memoir of his almost seven decades-long residence in West Pasadena, Van de Kamp recalled his memories of Pasadena when he was young.

“Pasadena has changed – mostly for the better,” he said. “With diversity has come minority representation in our government, and a better sense of integration – and our lives have been enriched by it.”

Van de Kamp, a longtime advocate of public schools, was a member of the Pasadena Education Foundation and chaired the Task Force on Good Government in 2005 and 2006. The task force was established to report on campaign finance reform and recommend ways to strengthen Measure B; it prohibited city officials from taking contributions from those awarded public money and other benefits.

In 2007, Van de Kamp chaired the state Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, which found California’s death penalty system was wasteful and “dysfunctional,” costing taxpayers $100 million a year to simply maintain the system.

“He was a very stand-up community man who cared,” said Civic Center Coalition member and former city employee Marsha Rood in March.

Van de Kamp also played a big part in the fundraising efforts for the Pasadena Robinson Memorial, and was very active in the West Pasadena Residents Association.

The Van de Kamp family is also well-known for its bakeries and Lawry’s Restaurants in Southern California.

Van de Kamp was appointed U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966. He would go on to become a top prosecutor and ultimately the Los Angeles County District Attorney – the first federal public defender in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Van de Kamp mounted an unsuccessful campaign for governor in 1990, losing in the Democratic primary to Dianne Feinstein.

At Friday’s induction ceremony, the speakers included Senior Judge Stephen S. Trott of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena. Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey also participated.

The other honorees this year include Jack E. Goertzen (1931-2016), who served as a trial judge from 1968 until he was elevated to the Second District Court of Appeal in 1988; Anthony P. Brooklier (1946-2016), hailed as one of the best criminal defense lawyers of his generation, who was the go-to attorney for high-profile clients that included organized crime figures, law enforcement officers and celebrities; William J. Genego (1951-2017), a champion of the underdog with an innate desire to right injustices, and a former law school professor who successfully fought to overturn wrongful convictions of at least five people who were serving life prison sentences; Paul Geragos (1927-2016), known among his colleagues as the “last warrior” for his dedication to the legal profession and thorough knowledge of the law, who successfully defended 17 clients facing the death penalty; Franklin Peters Jr. (1949-2015), renowned for undertaking the most challenging cases on the court’s docket, and for his stirring summations and impeccable memory; and Charles R. Scarlett (1924-2017), a storied defense attorney who represented clients such as James Brown and Little Richard and served as a role model for aspiring attorneys.

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