Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Page 1


Brown Nominates Goodwin Liu to Supreme Court


From Staff and Wire Service Reports


Gov. Jerry Brown yesterday named UC Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu as his first nominee for the California Supreme Court.

Liu, 40, previously was President Barack Obama’s choice for an open seat on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but he withdrew his candidacy two months ago in the face of opposition by Republican lawmakers.

In making the nomination—Brown’s first since taking office in January—the governor praised Liu as “an extraordinary man and a distinguished legal scholar.”

Liu, in a prepared statement, said he was “deeply honored by Gov. Brown’s nomination and look[ing] forward to the opportunity to serve the people of California on our state’s highest court.”

He declined an interview request made by The Associated Press, and a school spokeswoman said Liu was vacationing in Maine.

If confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, Liu will become the fourth serving justice of Asian descent on the state’s highest court. He would replace Carlos Moreno, who stepped down in February to go into private practice.

Praise From Moreno

Moreno was the only Latino on the court and influential Latino legal groups had urged Brown to nominate another to the high court, but the former justice, now a part of Irell & Manella, yesterday said the governor “is to be commended for this visionary and truly meritorious appointment.”

He remarked that Liu is a “dedicated teacher” who is “admired for his measured, balanced and rational judgment,” and “brings his considerable intellectual depth in the law to a wonderful, predecedent-setting court, along with an unabiding conviction for equal justice for all.” 

Brown said yesterday at a news conference that he does not think people should be appointed because of national origin, as their “attributes should in every way be the dominant criteria.”

MABA President ‘Disappointed’

Victor Acevedo, president of the Mexican-American Bar Association, called Brown’s comments “disingenuous,” insisting national origin is always taken into account for candidates because background is an important consideration.

“We are very disappointed,” Acevedo said, as Mexican-Americans “are the largest minority in the state and almost a majority, and now we have no representation on the court.”

The court also has no African-American members.

Southern California also will be left without representation because the entire court will be comprised of residents of the Central Valley and Northern California, Acevedo said. Justice Joyce L. Kennard was a Los Angeles Superior Court judge and justice of this district’s Court of Appeal before being appointed to the high court, which is headquartered in San Francisco.

Brown said he was impressed by Liu’s credentials and offered him the California vacancy after a lengthy interview at the governor’s loft in Oakland. Brown’s wife Ann Gust Brown, an attorney who serves as her husband’s unpaid special counsel, also attended the meeting.

Other members of the legal community also heralded Liu’s nomination.

Former State Bar President Holly Fujie, a partner at Buchalter Nemer Fields & Younger, said that she “cannot imagine a better candidate” for the Supreme Court.

“I think it is a brilliant appointment that will have a significant positive impact on California jurisprudence for decades to come,” Fujie said.

‘Exceptional Attorney’

Paul O. Hirose, president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, commended that Brown “has demonstrated his commitment to diversity” by nominating Liu. He said Liu is “an exceptional attorney who is well-respected by lawyers across the country” whose “intellect and integrity will add to the prestige of the California Supreme Court.”

Alameda District Attorney Nancy O’Malley similarly remarked on Liu’s “extraordinary intellect” and noted the professor is “a recognized expert in many areas, including constitutional law.”

She said Liu’s “personal integrity and intellectual honesty, coupled with his knowledge and experience, is the grounding upon which Professor Liu advocates for the protection of the actual words of the Constitution while striving to preserve its modern-day meaning.”

Although U.S. Senate Republicans blocked Liu’s appointment to the federal bench each of the three times Obama nominated him—based on objections to Liu’s written positions and perceived lack of experience—his nomination was supported by noted legal conservatives, including former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr; Richard Painter, who was legal counsel to President George W. Bush, and former Rep. Tom Campbell, now dean of Chapman University’s law school.

Liu also received a strong evaluation from the American Bar Association, and others supporting his nomination included the California Correctional Police Officers Association, the California Labor Federation, the Hispanic National Bar Association, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association and the three most recent presidents of Stanford University.

Brown said yesterday he put no stock in Senate Republican criticism of Liu, which he said did not have “a lot of intellectual weight.”

Although Liu has never served as a judge, Brown suggested this fact will add to the diversity of the California Supreme Court, where the six sitting justices all served on lower courts before their appointments. The six are also all Republican appointees.

The governor said he has no litmus test for judicial appointments and did not ask Liu about his positions on the death penalty, gay marriage or other hot-button social issues.

“I expect he will follow the law,” Brown said.

Liu’s critics, however, said the nominee is clearly opposed to capital punishment.

The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation issued a statement casting Liu as a soft-on-crime death penalty opponent. The group contended a paper Liu wrote in 2007 opposing the appointment of Justice Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court had “mischaracterized” Alito’s judgments in several capital cases, and reflected Liu’s apparent willingness “to seize on every excuse to reverse a capital sentence and brush aside every reason to affirm one.”

Randy Thomasson, head of the socially conservative, insisted Liu is poised to “become the new Rose Bird of the California Supreme Court,” referencing the state’s first female chief justice, a Brown appointee, who was unseated by voters—along with Justices Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin—over their anti-death penalty stances in 1986.

Thomasson further called Liu a “radical, liberal, political activist who would impose his own values on everyone else by legislating from the bench, a clear violation of his oath of office and of the specific words of our constitution.”

California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro also expressed concern that Liu—“a predictable, but bad pick” by Brown—was likely to be an “[a]ctivist” on the bench.

“Activist judges,” he said, “spread uncertainty in the legal system and employment environment and uncertainty discourages employers from investing in California’s future.” Del Beccaro suggested that Brown’s selection of Liu “sends yet another signal that California is not a safe place for employers or jobs.”

Liu is the son of Taiwanese immigrants, born in Georgia and raised in Sacramento. Liu attended Stanford University and Yale Law School before clerking for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

He worked as an appellate litigator in Washington before joining the UC Berkeley faculty in 2003.

The State Bar’s Commission of Judicial Nominees Evaluation will be asked to consider Brown’s nomination and make a non-binding recommendation to the Commission on Judicial Appointments, which is comprised of Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Court of Appeal Justice Joan Dempsey Klein of this district’s Div. Three, the longest-serving presiding justice of the appellate courts.

Liu will be the first judicial nominee to face an all-female panel.

Roughly three dozen other vacancies remain in the trial and appellate courts, awaiting action by Brown.


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