L. Thaxton Hanson, a retired Second Appellate District court judge whose decisions ranged from journalists' rights to shield laws protection to the appeal of a gay man accused of murdering a high school classmate for outing him, died Thursday at age 73. A spokeswoman in his office said he had died suddenly of cancer.
During a career that began with his 1947 graduation from the University of Michigan Law School, Hanson--first appointed to the Superior Court bench by Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1968--presided over several high-profile cases.
In 1972, a year before he was named to the appellate court, he was involved in one of the city's first obscenity rulings when he permitted the public screenings of several films in his courtroom. The films had been seized by Los Angeles vice squad officers from two office buildings and their owners were demanding that they be returned.
After a marathon screening of 62 films, Hanson ruled that distribution and sale of the films was illegal but possession was not.
In 1987, as an appellate judge, Hanson upheld the L.A. City Council's 1985 approval of Occidental Petroleum Corp.'s bid to open a coastal oil field. That same year he held that the founders of Guess jeans company were entitled to try undoing a transaction in which half the company was acquired by others.
Also in 1987, he ordered Norma Jean Almodovar, traffic-officer turned call girl, to prison after she had been freed because a lower court had ruled her pandering sentence excessive.
Hanson's survivors include his wife, Evelynne. A funeral service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, Glendale.