Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, March 27, 2015


Page 1


Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Arthur Jean to Retire


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Arthur H. Jean is retiring.

Jean could not be reached for comment, but a court spokesperson said today would be his last day on the bench, with his retirement set to take effect April 30.

The 71-year-old jurist served on the Long Beach Municipal Court from March 1985 to May 1987 and has been a Superior Court judge since then, appointed in each instance by then-Gov. George Deukmejian. He has sat at the new Long Beach courthouse named for the former chief executive since it opened in 2013.

A native of Nashua, N.H., he served in the Vietnam-era U.S. Army for three years before graduating from Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School. He joined the District Attorney’s Office as a law clerk, became a deputy district attorney upon admission to the State Bar in 1972, and was head of hardcore gang prosecutions in Compton at the time of his judicial appointment.

He has had Superior Court assignments in Compton and Long Beach, and is a former South District supervising judge and Executive Committee member.

He ran into controversy early in his Compton tenure, in 1988, when he clashed with prosecutors over then-District Attorney Ira Reiner’s edict that his deputies seek sentences of at least 180 days in jail for minor drug offenses. Determined to reduce his caseload, it was reported at the time, Jean insisted on offering 90-day sentences in exchange for pleas in those cases, leading the deputy district attorneys to disqualify him from hearing such cases on a blanket basis.

Their efforts were thwarted, however, when Judge Nancy Brown, now deceased, copied Jean and began offering 90-day pleas as well.

Among the high-profile cases heard by Jean in his 30 years on the bench was that of Thomas Goldstein, who served 24 years of a 27-year-to-life sentence for murder prior to his 2004 release.

Jean dismissed the case in furtherance of justice, citing its “cancerous nature.” The case was sent to Jean after a federal judge granted Goldstein’s habeas corpus petition based on what a magistrate found to be the likelihood that a jailhouse informant made an undisclosed deal with prosecutors in exchange for testimony that Goldstein had confessed to the murder.

Jean also presided at the 1999 retrial of Ronald Hawkins, a pro per defendant in a third-strike case who attracted international attention after the previous judge, now-retired Joan Comparet Cassani, ordered a bailiff to administer a 50,000-volt jolt from a security belt with which he had been fitted because of earlier violence in jail. Hawkins was accused of repeatedly interrupting the judge and violating her order not to tell jurors that he was HIV-positive and facing a third-strike sentence.

Jean granted Hawkins’ motion for new trial, on the ground that he had been improperly ejected from the trial, then sentenced him 25 years to life in prison after jurors convicted him a second time, media reported at the time.

In 1993, Jean presided over the election contest brought by then-state Sen. Diane Watson following her loss by fewer than 2,600 votes to Yvonne Braithwaite Burke in the November 1992 runoff election for Second District county supervisor.

“While there have been some hints and allusions to some human error during the course of this election, there is no credible evidence that would amount to malconduct of the precinct ward,” Jean was quoted as saying, as he rejected Watson’s claims of vote-tampering and other misconduct.


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