California Supreme Court

By Maura Dolan
Augs=ust 28, 2014

A state commission decided unanimously Thursday to confirm the appointment of Stanford law professor Mariano-Florentino Cuellar to the California Supreme Court, paving the way for Gov. Jerry Brown’s second high-court nominee this term to take the bench in January.

Cuellar’s name will appear on the November ballot for election to a 12-year term. If approved by voters, as expected, Cuellar will take the seat of Justice Marvin R. Baxter, a conservative Republican appointee from Fresno who plans to retire when his term ends in January.

The state Commission on Judicial Appointments, headed by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, approved the nomination after an hour-long hearing. Three lawyers spoke in favor of Cuellar’s appointment; there was no opposition.

A state bar evaluating commission gave Cuellar, an immigrant from Mexico, its highest rating: exceptionally well qualified.

“He is a brilliant scholar, an excellent writer and speaker, and enjoys a stellar reputation for his achievements in academia,” Jason P. Lee, chair of the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation, told the appointments panel.

The evaluators praised Cuellar for his “wide array of academic and governmental experience” and his “remarkable ability to build and maintain consensus even amongst those with disparate interests” and a dedication to public service, Lee said.

Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris, one of the three commissioners, noted that Cuellar has vast experience as a scholar and policy-maker but had never been a judge.

Cuellar quipped: “It helps that I am married to one.” He said he was used to giving deference to a trial judge, his wife, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh.

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