California Governor Jerry Brown today announced his promotion of Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals to the California Court of Appeal.
The courthouse rumor mill had long anticipated the honor for Goethals, a 65-year-old Newport Beach resident whose integrity and commitment to judicial transparency shown most notably while he presided over People v. Scott Dekraai, the death-penalty case that unveiled the infamous jailhouse-informant scandal.
Most other local judges would have ignored the unconstitutional tactics, lies and evidence destruction emanating from Tony Rackauckas’ district attorney’s office and Sandra Hutchens’ sheriff’s department, but Goethals, himself a former homicide prosecutor, refused to tolerate the corruption.
In 2015, the judge recused Rackauckas and his entire office from Dekraai after announcing he didn’t have faith they would act ethically during the penalty phase of the case. This year, with Hutchens still refusing to comply fully with his 2013 lawfully issued discovery orders, he removed the death penalty option for Dekraai, who murdered eight people, including his ex-wife, at a Seal Beach salon in 2011. The killer is now a lifetime resident of Corcoran State Prison.
As punishment for holding them accountable, Rackauckas’ prosecutors blocked the judge from presiding in 55 of 58 cases assigned to him during one 18-month period.
Goethals, who became a member of the bench in 2003, replaces retired Justice William F. Rylaarsdam.