After serving during the late 1970s and early 1980s as Los Angeles County District Attorney, he took office as California's twenty-eighth Attorney General.
After graduating from Dartmouth College, he earned his law degree from Stanford University and went on to become an assistant United States Attorney.
While serving as L.A. County District Attorney, he opened D.A. positions to a large number of women and established task forces to deal with gang violence and domestic and child abuse. As California Attorney General, he made contributions in the areas of civil rights, environmental issues, consumer rights, and criminal investigation procedures.
He and his wife settled in his hometown of Pasadena, California. His family is well known for establishing successful California bakery and restaurant chains.
He was defeated by Dianne Feinstein in the 1990 Democratic primary for the California gubernatorial election.