John Van de Kamp

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John Van de Kamp
Van de Kamp in 2012
28th Attorney General of California
In office
January 3, 1983 – January 7, 1991
Governor George Deukmejian
Preceded by George Deukmejian
Succeeded by Dan Lungren
37th Los Angeles County District Attorney
In office
July 1, 1975 – July 1, 1981
Preceded by Joseph P. Busch
Succeeded by Robert Philibosian
Personal details
Born John Kalar Van de Kamp
(1936-02-07) February 7, 1936 (age 78)
Pasadena, California, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Dartmouth College
Stanford Law School

John Kalar Van de Kamp (born February 7, 1936)[1][2] is an American politician. He served as Los Angeles County District Attorney from 1975 until 1981, and then as 28th Attorney General of California from 1983 until 1991.[3]

Van de Kamp graduated from Dartmouth College and from Stanford Law School in 1959. He served as assistant U.S. Attorney and later became the first federal public defender in Los Angeles. He was appointed District Attorney after the previous incumbent died in office.

Los Angeles County District Attorney[edit]

During his tenure as Los Angeles County District Attorney, Van de Kamp dramatically increased the number of female deputy district attorneys in the office. He also created special units to focus on gangs, sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, and career criminals, and a unit to monitor crime in the entertainment industry. He set in place programs to help victims and witnesses, as well as quick response teams in cases of police officer-involved shootings.

Van de Kamp was criticized for his office's handling of the Hillside Strangler case. Specifically, the case against defendant Angelo Buono was based largely on the testimony of co-defendant Kenneth Bianchi, who became uncooperative and unreliable, claiming to have multiple personalities and repeatedly changing his story. Van de Kamp was assured by his prosecutors that because of Bianchi's behavior, conviction of Buono could not be secured. Van de Kamp accepted their judgment and allowed the trial prosecutor, Roger Kelly, to move to dismiss all 10 murder charges against Buono and release him.

The judge in the case, Ronald M. George, however, felt enough evidence existed against Buono to justify proceeding to trial, and George took the unconventional step of denying the motion to dismiss. Van de Kamp then declared a conflict of interest with regard to his office continuing the prosecution, as his office had already come to the conclusion that they could not win the case. Judge George accepted the conflict and reassigned the case, moving it to the California Attorney General's office under George Deukmejian. The prosecutors from the Attorney General's office were able to overcome the problems with Bianchi's behavior, and went on to secure convictions on nine of the 10 counts and a life sentence against Buono.

The trial had been so lengthy that before it ended, Deukmejian had left office (having been elected as Governor of California), and had been succeeded as California Attorney General by Van de Kamp himself. Thus, it was ironically a Van de Kamp-led office that had declared the case against Buono to be unwinnable, and another Van de Kamp-led office that completed the winning of that case. The first decision, to give up on the prosecution of Buono, was used against Van de Kamp in later political campaigns to portray him as being soft on crime.

California Attorney General[edit]

During Van de Kamp's administration as California Attorney General, he helped to create the Public Rights Division, which focuses on the enforcement of environmental, consumer protection, anti-trust, and civil rights issues. He also helped to modernize the Department of Justice by beginning support of DNA forensic investigation. He was re-elected easily in 1986.

In 1987, Van De Kamp unsuccessfully led the State's charge against pornography by defending the pandering conviction of adult filmmaker Harold Freeman. Ultimately, the California State Supreme Court overturned Freeman's conviction. Van De Kamp appealed to the United States Supreme Court, who declined to hear the case, thus effectively legalizing the production of adult films.

In 1989, George Deukmejian announced that he would not seek third term as Governor of California the following year. Van de Kamp ran for the office in 1990, hoping to succeed Deukmejian a second time, but lost the Democratic primary election to Dianne Feinstein.

Post-politics[edit]

After his loss to Feinstein, Van de Kamp retired from politics and with his wife returned to his hometown of Pasadena, California, where they still live. Since leaving public office, Van de Kamp entered private law practice and has remained active in environmental causes.

Van de Kamp was elected the 80th president of the State Bar of California for 2004-2005.[4] He currently serves as president of the board of directors for the Planning and Conservation League.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Graduated from John Muir High School in Pasadena, California.

The Van de Kamp family is also famous for its bakeries and Lawry's Restaurants in Southern California.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Joseph P. Busch
Los Angeles County District Attorney
1975–1981
Succeeded by
Robert Philibosian
Preceded by
George Deukmejian
California Attorney General
1983–1991
Succeeded by
Dan Lungren