X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
COURT: Northern District of California (Oakland) APPOINTED: June 1986 DATE OF BIRTH: June 3, 1928 LAW SCHOOL: Boalt Hall School of Law (1952) PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: None Near the end of “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” an old newspaperman barks “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” When it comes to D. Lowell Jensen, the legend is true. And Jimmy Stewart’s character in “Liberty Valance,” an earnest lawyer who courageously brings order to a lawless West, might be one of the few attorneys in fact or fiction who approach Jensen’s integrity. As Alameda County district attorney from 1969 to 1981, Jensen was the top prosecutor for one of the more tumultuous eras in California history. He was there for the Symbionese Liberation Army and the Black Panthers. He was a top assistant in the office during the Free Speech Movement. He personally prosecuted the infamous 1976 Chowchilla kidnapping, in which 26 schoolchildren were taken from a school bus and later buried in a moving van. In 1981, he was tapped to run the Justice Department’s criminal division under newly elected President Ronald Reagan. He eventually rose to become the Justice Department’s second-highest official, serving as deputy attorney general under another giant figure in Alameda County legal history, Edwin Meese III. Jensen emerged from his political pursuits unscathed. While someone who prosecuted Huey Newton and Mario Savio could easily earn the reputation as a political hack, Jensen has pulled off a remarkable trick. At 75, his reputation for fairness, decisiveness and patience is unassailable. Jensen is, says defense attorney Harold Rosenthal, “as close to the Platonic ideal of judicial temperament as you can find.” Even back when Jensen was in the Alameda County DA’s office, he urged all his prosecutors to be even-handed. Howard Janssen of Lafayette’s Janssen Doyle said Jensen always told his prosecutors to consider two things before bringing a case — not only whether they could win, but whether they truly believed the suspect was guilty. And once they made their decision, Jensen never second-guessed his deputies — another factor which helped form Jensen’s apolitical reputation. Jensen also told deputies to treat every suspect the same. “It didn’t matter if it was a mayor or someone without a job,” Janssen said he was told. “The impact [of criminal charges] is just as traumatic.” Jensen took senior status in 1997, but has maintained a fairly active calendar. Last year, he sentenced former Media Vision CFO Steven Allan to 3 1/2 years in prison for securities fraud. A week later, he sentenced the government’s star cooperating witness, CEO Paul Jain, to a substantial 2 1/2 years. The sentences were considered middle-of-the-road, in line with his reputation. Despite his background, Jensen shouldn’t be considered pro-prosecution. He overturned the conviction of George Franklin in the infamous “repressed memory” murder case, largely putting to rest a trend of using psychiatrist-aided recovered memories to win convictions. Some judicial reputations are built on spectacular cases. Jensen’s seems built between the lines — in court and away from the headlines. “He’s human, he can lose his patience — but he’s good to counsel in front of juries. He gives you a chance to make your record,” said Rosenthal, who used the words “wisdom,” “compassion” and “detachment” in praising Jensen. But his influence extends far beyond his courtroom. His former deputy prosecutors dominate the Northern California bench, from Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin to several California Court of Appeal justices to a legion of superior court judges and two colleagues on the federal bench. Even U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan worked under him. Lawrence Callaghan, a partner at Tucker Ellis & West, said Jensen is one of the best trial lawyers he’s ever known. “Put together brains, personality, experience and judgment,” Callaghan said. “I’ve never heard anyone complain about Judge Jensen.”

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 3 articles* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.