The Honorable Thomas M. Goethals

4th District Court of Appeal, Department Division Three


The Hon. Thomas M. Goethals is an Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three. He was appointed by former governor Jerry Brown on December 22, 2017, filling a vacancy created by the retirement of Justice William F. Rylaarsdam.

Goethals earned a B.A. in history from Santa Clara University in 1974. He then received a J.D. from Loyola Law School in 1977.

Goethals began his legal career in 1978, working for the Office of the District Attorney of Orange County. He served as a Deputy District Attorney, and he was responsible for the supervision of the Homicide Unit and the Law and Motion Panel. He briefly left the Office of the District Attorney in 1984, spending a year working as an associate at Robinson & Robinson. He then returned to the Office of the District Attorney in 1985. Then, in 1990, he joined Pohlson, Moorhead and Goethals. Here, he worked as an associate and as a partner, trying both civil and criminal matters. On December 28, 2002, former governor Gray Davis appointed Goethals as a judge of the Superior Court of Orange County, where he served as the supervisor of its felony trial courts.

He also worked as an adjunct professor at Loyola Law School from 1998 to 2017.

Goethals made national headlines in 2015. He sanctioned prosecutors for misconduct after it was revealed that material evidence about the existence of a database of jailhouse informants was intentionally withheld. His ruling prompted a national debate on the use of jailhouse informants.

Goethals was born in Glendale, California and graduated from Loyola High School. He was a resident of Newport Beach, California at the time of his elevation to the Fourth District Court of Appeal. Goethals is married with three children and self-identifies as Catholic. His hobbies include running, reading, and traveling.

He is registered to vote as a Democrat.

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