Patricia Guerrero Confirmed As Next California Chief Justice, Will Run Before Voters | Region

California Supreme Court Justice Patricia Guerrero was confirmed on Friday to become the court’s next chief justice, following a hearing in which fellow justices and other legal colleagues called her praised as uniquely qualified to lead the state’s judiciary.

Confirmation means Guerrero will appear on the November statewide ballot and, if approved by voters, take over in January as the court’s first Latin chief justice.

“I am honored to live in a state where a little girl who grew up in the Imperial Valley and raised by immigrant parents from Mexico could grow up, follow her dreams and become the first Latina associate justice on the Supreme Court of California,” says she in brief comments after her confirmation. “There has never been a Latino or Latina to fill the position of head judge until now. I am proud to be the first and I look forward to the second, third and fourth.

Guerrero was named leader by Governor Gavin Newsom earlier this month after current Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announced she would not seek a second term. Legal experts consider Guerrero a moderate who falls slightly to the center-left ideologically.

On Friday, Cantil-Sakauye voted to confirm Guerrero’s nomination as her replacement. So did the other two members of the state Judicial Appointments Commission: Attorney General Rob Bonta and California Court of Appeals Presiding Judge Manuel Ramirez.

Cantil-Sakauye called the confirmation “preordained” and the hearing “joyful”, praising Guerrero as well qualified not only to lead the court, but also to serve as a top administrator of the judiciary.

“Governor. Newsom made an inspired choice,” Cantil-Sakauye said.

The Judicial Candidates Evaluation Commission, a body that vets judicial candidates, had concluded that Guerrero was “exceptionally well qualified” to take over as leader, meaning it determined that she “possesses qualities and attributes of remarkable or extraordinary superiority which enable her to perform the judicial function of appellate with distinction.

Speakers at Friday’s hearing, including a former Guerrero legal partner and fellow associate judge Martin Jenkins, also sang Guerrero’s praises — largely focusing on his leadership experience.

David L. Mulliken, a retired partner at Guerrero’s former firm, Latham & Watkins, said the firm identified Guerrero early on as a “megastar” who had skills as a lawyer and as a manager, putting her on the “fast track” to leadership roles. – which she even took on as a partner.

“She had a great, great talent for all aspects of effective management. She effectively managed large teams in a collaborative and collegial manner,” Mulliken said. “She was a consensus builder, she was compulsively organized and she was a very, very efficient and forceful advocate for her positions – which perhaps surprises people who see her as a kind, soft-spoken and full of humor. ”

Jenkins called Guerrero an “accomplished and efficient lawyer” with “a top-notch legal mind that allows her to solve complex legal problems without sacrificing efficiency.”

He also called her a “gifted, talented and fluid writer, but extremely cautious”, and said that “her work ethic is simply unmatched”.

Guerrero, 50, will be the only official candidate listed for leader in the November ballot, although voters may write by another name.

As Chief Justice, Guerrero would continue to be one of seven judges who decide cases. She would also be the court’s administrative chief and chair of the California Judicial Council, which sets administrative policy for all state courts.

Newsom appointed Guerrero to the court as an associate judge in February, and she was confirmed in March.

Prior to that, Guerrero served on the Court of Appeals for the 4th District of California, overseeing cases in San Diego and the Imperial Valley. She attended the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford Law School, and served as a federal prosecutor and judge on the San Diego Superior Court.

Guerrero lives in Coronado and is married with two teenage sons. The commission that examined her noted in their report that her hobbies include “swimming, golf, horseback riding and snowboarding”.

The judge said she had “very big shoes to fill” replacing Cantil-Sakauye and will approach the job with humility, relying on her fellow judges and other members of the judiciary for the help learn the tricks of the trade.

“I come in with realistic expectations, knowing that I have a lot on my plate and also knowing that I will give 100% and more,” she said.

Guerrero also credited Newsom’s team for ensuring the court system includes judges with “a rich diversity of backgrounds and experiences” – including Alameda County Superior Court Judge, Kelli Evans, whom Newsom said he would appoint to the seat of associate judge for Guerrero once it becomes vacant in January. .

Guerrero said Evans, who is black and would be the court’s first openly lesbian judge, would come to see, as she did, that the state’s highest court is “an incredible group of talented and committed people who care deeply about the rule of law and serving the public.”

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Elna M. Lemons