California State Legislature
According to Goldsmith, his greatest legislative accomplishment had to do with juvenile justice. He chaired the Assembly subcommittee that put together a package of legislation that eventually became initiatives that the public got to vote on. He also felt foster care was another of his accomplishments. He was named legislator of the year for the Children’s Lobby. He carried the legislation that eliminated the bias against trans-racial adoption.
Goldsmith was the author of two bills, in 1994 and 1997, that attempted to legalize ferrets as pets in California. However, the Department of Fish and Game opposes any introduction of ferrets into the state, and the bills failed.
Upon being term limited from the Assembly in 1998, Goldsmith made an unsuccessful bid for California State Treasurer, losing the primary to former Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle who lost that election and went on to serve as mayor of Anaheim. Following his loss, Goldsmith became a San Diego County judge for 9½ years before stepping down to run for City Attorney.
San Diego City Attorney
Goldsmith ran for San Diego City attorney in 2008. In the June primary he received the most votes (32.2%) among five candidates, but not a majority. In the November runoff he defeated incumbent City Attorney Mike Aguirre, 59.4% to 40.4%. In 2012 he was re-elected without opposition.
In 2010 Goldsmith's office threatened the owners of a local restaurant with fines and jail for charging a fixed service charge instead of tipping; the issue was whether they were violating state disclosure laws. The city attorney later dropped the issue and did not pursue the case.
In 2013, Goldsmith was criticized by Mayor Bob Filner for prosecuting Jeff Olson for chalking anti-bank slogans on city sidewalks outside Bank of America branches, calling it "a stupid case" and a waste of city money. The prosecution was ultimately unsuccessful. With the defendant refusing a plea bargain, facing up to 13 years in jail and $13,000.00 in fines, Judge Howard Shore admonished Olson's attorney, Tom Tosdal, from mentioning the First Amendment and political speech references during the trial. Additionally, Judge Shore issued a gag order, preventing communications with the media concerning the trial. Goldsmith and Filner were in conflict almost from the day Filner took office, over several issues including medical marijuana, tourism funding, cuts to the City Attorney budget, road paving bonds, and the presence of Goldsmith's aide at a confidential city meetings. Goldsmith was a key figure in the August 2013 mediated negotiations that led to Filner's agreeing to resign.
- "Jan Goldsmith: interview with Tom Blair". San Diego Magazine. May 2008. Retrieved 13 January 2013.
- "Ferret issues". Department of Fish and Game. State of California. Retrieved 13 January 2013.
- "City of San Diego Attorney" (PDF). Direct Primary Election, June 3, 2008. San Diego County Registrar of Voters. Retrieved 13 January 2013.
- "City of San Diego Attorney" (PDF). General Election, Tuesday, November 4, 2008. San Diego County Registrar. Retrieved 13 January 2013.
- "City of San Diego Attorney" (PDF). Presidential Primary Election, June 5, 2012. San Diego County Registrar of Voters. Retrieved 13 January 2013.
- Showley, Roger (March 6, 2010). "Linkery off hook over mandatory-tip policy". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
- "San Diego mayor, city attorney in dust-up over chalk vandalism case". Los Angeles Times. June 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
- Perry, Tony (1 July 2013). "San Diego jury acquits chalk protester in sidewalk graffiti case". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
That Bank of America had contacted the city attorney's office to urge prosecution had become part of the dispute between the Democratic mayor and Republican city attorney.
- Hargrove, Dorian (27 June 2013). "Judge issues gag order in case of man prosecuted for scribbling anti-bank messages in chalk". San Diego Reader. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
The decision is in addition to a previous ruling from Shore which prohibits Olson's attorney Tom Tosdal from mentioning the First Amendment, free speech, free expression, public forum, expressive conduct, or political speech during the trial.
- Wian, Casey (August 21, 2013). "San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, city reach mediation deal, city attorney says". CNN. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
-  San Diego City Attorney website