Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
John “Jack” Quatman shocked the Alameda County criminal courts with his explosive declaration of judicial interference and systematic discrimination in the jury selection process. Quatman’s statements stirred up many heated questions, including this very personal one: Why did the former county prosecutor decide to turn against his former employer and to help seek the reversal of one of his own capital convictions? Last Wednesday, the California Supreme Court issued an order to show cause after Fred Freeman’s attorneys submitted a declaration from Quatman, who prosecuted Freeman’s 1987 capital case. In the declaration, Quatman said that he had followed Judge Stanley Golde’s advice to keep Jewish people from the jury panel. He also said it was “standard practice” at the DA’s office to keep black women off juries. Golde, who died in 1998, was Jewish. While the revelations have rocked Oakland’s legal community, 1,200 miles away in Flathead County, Mont., a few lawyers weren’t surprised. Six years ago, Quatman and his wife, Phyllis, a Contra Costa County prosecutor, packed their bags and moved to Whitefish, a rural town near the western slope of the Rockies. The Quatmans have made a name for themselves as defenders, winning high-profile cases and riling the bench in the process. Repeated calls to Quatman & Quatman were not returned. When the couple first arrived, Phyllis Quatman immediately shook things up, lawyers there say. She won acquittals in two high-profile murder trials. In one of those cases, which was profiled on “Dateline,” she first won a new trial for the defendant, who had been sentenced to 100 years in prison. In an area in which many attorneys avoided trial, the couple is known for not being afraid to go to court, said Patrick Sherlock, a veteran defense attorney and former chief public defender. “They are aggressive lawyers, they are not afraid to take no prisoners,” Sherlock said. While other local attorneys would only occasionally take appeals to the state supreme court, Quatman & Quatman is known to do it “within the hour” of an unfavorable ruling. “They brought a California brand of lawyering to Montana,” he said. Jack Quatman announced a run for the top prosecutor’s seat in 2002, but pulled out early in the race for unexplained “personal reasons.” Phyllis Quatman upset the bench by challenging its procedures. In a one-year stint as a public defender, she helped change a policy that gave judges influence over PD hires, Sherlock said. That and other battles left Phyllis Quatman’s relationship with three local trial judges so deteriorated that two of them will not hear her cases. While Jack Quatman still tries civil and criminal cases in front of all three judges, his wife’s reputation and the three-attorney firm’s aggressive style have cast a shadow on their success. Jack Quatman is a “reasonable, good guy to work with” on cases, said Paul Sandry, a civil attorney at Kalispell’s Johnson, Berg, McEvoy & Bostock, who worked with Quatman on civil cases. “I don’t have anything against the guy, but some people do because of her,” Sandry said. Phyllis Quatman is now a panel attorney for the California Appellate Project, which represents inmates on death row. County Attorney Ed Corrigan �� who won the prosecutor’s race from which Quatman retreated �� openly admits he doesn’t like the couple, but says “they have done well across the board.” But he points out that a guilty verdict in a rape case was set aside because a judge ruled that Jack Quatman rendered ineffective assistance of counsel, he said Meanwhile, in the East Bay, one former prosecutor who knew Jack Quatman says that his confessional declaration doesn’t mesh with the hard-driving prosecutor he remembers. Quatman was a skilled lawyer who pushed the envelope to win, said Howard Janssen, a Lafayette civil attorney who supervised Quatman in the DA’s office. “He was a tough prosecutor,” Janssen said. “No one ever told him what to do.” Some prosecutors privately say that Jack Quatman has credibility problems. His ethics came under fire during an unsuccessful run for Contra Costa County judge in 1996. The San Francisco Daily Journal reported that Quatman might have engaged in misconduct in a murder case. The allegations led to a successful habeas petition, and the DA declined to recharge the case. Quatman was also accused of implying in campaign literature that he had helped to convict Polly Klaas’ murderer. In fact, he was merely the sentencing DA for the case. Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff said it would be premature to decide whether Quatman’s revelations would spark a probe into Judge Golde’s cases. “It’s very clear. There was no policy like that,” said Orloff, referring to Quatman’s allegation that it was “standard practice” to spike black women from jury pools. Quatman’s declaration puzzled longtime colleague James Anderson, a death penalty prosecutor who said he was a friend of Golde’s and of Quatman’s. If the story is true, Anderson said, “Jack is the one who made the Wheeler/ Batson [violation]. So why say �so-and-so told me to do it’? Just say, �I did it.’ Why is he bringing Stanley into this? That’s not the Jack Quatman I know.” Other attorneys, like Scott Kauffman of the California Appellate Project, say that it is unfair that Jack Quatman is being attacked for taking a brave stance in the Freeman case. “I have no doubt that what [Jack Quatman] is saying is true,” Kauffman said. Since the ex-prosecutor couple began a criminal defense practice, “It has been a revelation to them, the things you have to take,” Kauffman said. A Montana colleague called Quatman’s move courageous. “It was probably something that had bothered him for a long time,” said Kalispell criminal defense attorney Gary Doran. The controversy over the Freeman death penalty case has struck a sensitive chord in the East Bay because many in the legal community idolized Golde. Golde was a “dean” of criminal law and a sought-after death penalty judge, said Judge Kenneth Burr. While Golde was revered by the legal community, his reputation took some knocks as well. The First District Court of Appeal dinged Golde a few times for ad-libbing jury instructions. He left an assignment as a certifications judge �� a judge who imposed sentences for guilty pleas �� amid community criticism that he gave lenient sentences to sex offenders. Golde’s son, Matthew, who is a veteran Alameda County prosecutor, said Quatman’s statements about his father were not true. “As a son, I can tell you that my father was a man of intelligence, fairness and integrity,” he said. It may take a year or more before Quatman takes the witness stand, Kauffman said. After both sides file additional briefs, the Supreme Court will probably ask Alameda County’s PJ to appoint a referee to hear evidence on the issue, said Kauffman. If the Freeman case is overturned, it could have implications for other cases that Golde handled. During his career, the judge handed down 11 death sentences �� possibly more than any other judge in the state. The sensitive issues in the Freeman case raise questions about where it should be heard, Kauffman said. “It’s a small world, and it’s understandable that people would be hurt by all of this,” Kauffman said.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


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 © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.