Friday, January 7, 2011
Moreno Confirms Retirement, Says He Is Headed to Private Sector
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno confirmed yesterday that he intends to retire Feb. 28.
As reported yesterday in the MetNews, the only Democratic appointee and Latino on the court will step down less than two months into a 12-year term that voters gave him in a November retention election. By doing so, he gives new Gov. Jerry Brown an early opportunity to shape the state’s high court.
Moreno 62, submitted his resignation to Brown on Wednesday, a court spokesperson said.
Moreno was named to the state Supreme Court in 2001 by then-Gov. Gray Davis and was on President Barack Obama’s short list for a U.S. Supreme Court opening in 2009 that was ultimately filled by Sonia Sotomayor.
In a brief statement, Moreno said he planned on returning to the private sector and was weighing his options, including private practice or alternative dispute resolution.
“It has been a truly unique honor and privilege to have served the people of California as a judge for over 24 years and, together with my great colleagues on the court, to have played a modest role in shaping California jurisprudence,” Moreno said in the statement.
Brown thanked the departing justice for his service and “intends to fill Justice Moreno’s seat with a candidate who is equally knowledgeable, thoughtful and judicious,” the governor’s spokesman said.
Moreno’s resignation, which surprised some legal observers, gives Brown his first chance to fill a seat on the state Supreme Court since his last term as governor more than 25 years ago.
“It’s an opportunity for him to make a very important pick very quickly for his administration,” said Rory Little, a professor at the University of California Hastings School of Law in San Francisco. “This is going to force him very quickly to develop his judicial selection process.”
Moreno’s coming departure will follow closely behind that of former Chief Justice Ronald George, who stepped down Sunday after 14 years. He was succeeded by appellate court judge Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who assumed the post Monday.
Moreno is among the more liberal members of the seven-justice Supreme Court. He was the only justice who voted to block enforcement of California’s ban on same-sex marriage in 2009, and last year he was the lone dissenting vote in a ruling that upheld the state’s affirmative-action ban.
Gerald Uelmen, a law professor at Santa Clara University, said he expects Brown to appoint a successor that will likely join the panel’s liberal wing, so “it won’t affect the ultimate balance of the court.”
Brown will likely choose a Hispanic or African American to fill the open seat since there will not be a member of either group after Moreno steps down, Uelmen said.
The retirement could force the administration to expedite the setting up of its judicial selection machinery. Brown has not appointed a judicial appointments secretary, and a spokesperson said Tuesday that no decision has been made on whether to choose someone for that role or combine it with that of legal affairs secretary, as Brown did during his first two terms.
Brown is likely to be proceed cautiously with the appointment after three justices he appointed during his first tenure as governor — Cruz Reynoso, Joseph Grodin and former Chief Justice Rose Bird — were voted out of their jobs in 1986 following public outrage over their opposition to the death penalty, Uelmen said.
The son of Mexican immigrants, Moreno grew up in East Los Angeles before attending Yale University and Stanford Law School. He started his legal career as a deputy city attorney in Los Angeles and then joined a commercial litigation practice.
Moreno, who is married with three children, began his judicial career in 1986 as a municipal court judge in Compton and later served as a felony trial judge in Los Angeles Superior Court. He served as a federal judge in Los Angeles for three years before being appointed to the state Supreme Court.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company