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I have been a deputy city attorney in San Diego for more than 11 years, handling both criminal prosecution and civil litigation. I am a Democrat, president of the Deputy City Attorneys Association and I am supporting Judge Jan Goldsmith to replace my boss, Mike Aguirre.
Jan, being a Republican, and I probably disagree on some political issues. It doesn’t matter. He invited me to attend an event with former Governor Pete Wilson. “Never,” I replied. “Not Pete Wilson.” We both laughed. It didn’t matter. Choosing the best candidate for city attorney regardless of party affiliation, and taking the politics out of the Office of the City Attorney, that’s what matters.
Jan Goldsmith gets it. More than any other candidate he understands the most important issue in this campaign — politics versus the law. The political views of the city attorney should not matter. What matters is his or her grasp of the law; understanding of the professionalism that should govern legal work; skills to run a law office; and understanding the process. That’s what matters.
Judge Goldsmith will bring to this office experience and skills that make him arguably the most qualified candidate for city attorney ever to seek the office. As he says, he has practiced the law, written the law, taught the law and enforced the law. He passed the bar in 1976 and had his first trial when one of his opponents was 6 years old!
He was a senior partner in a San Diego law firm when that opponent was 9 years old. His law firm was so successful that he was able to dedicate the rest of his life to public service, as a city councilman, as the mayor of Poway, as a state legislator, and for the last 10 years as a Superior Court Judge. After spending each day in the courtroom, Judge Goldsmith teaches a law school class at night. He is an adjunct professor at all three San Diego law schools.
In 1998, Jan had just spent three terms in the state legislature and was faced with the decision of whether to continue in politics and run for the state senate or retire from politics and accept a judicial appointment. He chose the latter, a decision he says was one of the best he has ever made. Jan has spent the last nearly 10 years commuting to work with his wife, Christine, also a Superior Court Judge, and enjoying his family.
Jan and Christine have been married 33 years and have three children — the oldest is a few months from obtaining a doctorate in physics; the second just graduated law school; and the third is a sophomore in college. Jan, a former New York cabbie, brags that none of the children have ever received a traffic ticket — Jan has one in 40 years of driving.
So, people ask, why is Judge Goldsmith leaving the Bench — a job he calls “terrific” — to run our more than-135-lawyer office and be in the hot seat. After all, it is a lot of work and pressure, without much more pay. He says he doesn’t want another political career and won’t run for mayor or City Council. It’s about public service, the law, and the challenge of making our office one of the best public law firms in the nation and, in the process, help get San Diego back on its feet. I for one am glad he made that choice, and I know there are many of you out there who are as thrilled as I am to have an opportunity to put a person with his experience and skills in charge of perhaps the most important office in this city.
Our office needs Judge Jan Goldsmith. We need someone with his skills and experience to guide our young lawyers. It doesn’t help much if the city attorney is the one in need of training. Jan not only has the skills and experience, but he is a law professor and knows how to teach.
We need someone who will show the way on how to practice public law without the politics. As a judge, Jan Goldsmith successfully made the transition from politics to the nonpolitical Bench, something that is not easy to do. He knows how to do it and can show our lawyers the way.
We need someone who knows how to run a law firm. Jan has done that successfully and has run a city, legislative office and a courtroom. He knows how to deal with people.
Most of all, we need someone with integrity. Judge Goldsmith is independent and honest. His reputation after nearly 10 years on the Bench is among the best. I have gotten to know Jan Goldsmith. I not only support him, but I like him personally.
As city attorney, Judge Jan Goldsmith will bring the City Attorney’s office to new heights as one of the best public law firms in the country. San Diego needs that to help our city get back on its feet. In conclusion, borrowing from one of our Democratic Presidents, I say “why not the best?”