Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, August 29, 2014


Page 1


Cuéllar Wins Approval as Supreme Court Justice

Commission Also Approves Edmon, Hoffstadt, and Renner as Nominees to Court of Appeal


From Staff and Wire Service Reports


Gov. Jerry Brown’s nominee to the California Supreme Court was easily confirmed yesterday after a brief hearing.

—Courtesy Governor’s Office

Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, as-sociate justice-designate of the California Supreme Court.

The three-member Commission on Judicial Appointments unanimously approved Stanford University law professor Mariano-Florentino “Tino” Cuéllar’s nomination to the state’s highest court. The Mexican-born legal scholar and registered Democrat will be the court’s only Latino.

If state voters approve on Nov. 4, Cuéllar, 41, will succeed Justice Marvin Baxter on Jan. 5. Baxter elected not to seek retention for a new 12-year term, and will step down after more than 24 years in office.

Cuéllar faced no opposition during the one-hour hearing in the San Francisco courtroom where he will preside. After three witnesses testified in support of him, the commission voted on his confirmation with no debate.

Cuéllar said he was “humbled” and “grateful” for the appointment.

He is Brown’s second appointment to the seven-member court. The governor has yet to fill a third vacancy on a court undergoing a dramatic political shift to the left.

“I would describe the court as a middle-left one now,” said appellate specialist Curt Cutting, who has appeared before the high court many times. “Up until now, the court was more of a middle-right one.”

Difficult to Predict

Cutting and other analysts warned that predicting how a legal scholar with no judicial experience like Cuéllar will rule on the bench can be difficult.

“They often surprise,” Cutting said.

Further, the court is still divided between three Republican appointees and three Democratic appointees.

“The next Brown appointment will be the big one,” said Santa Clara University Gerald Uelmen.” The court is definitely shifting to the left.”

Cuéllar was born in Matamoros, Mexico, and walked across the border to attend school in Brownsville, Texas. He earned his law degree from Yale Law School and a doctoral degree in political science from Stanford University. He has been a law professor at Stanford since 2001.

Obama White House

Cuéllar served as special assistant for justice and regulatory policy in the Obama White House in 2009 and 2010 and was co-chair of the Obama transition team’s immigration policy working group in 2008 and 2009. He also served as a congressional adviser to the U.S. education secretary on how to close the achievement gap in public schools from 2011 to 2013, among other policy work.

The State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees gave Cuéllar its highest recommendation of “exceptionally well qualified.”

Cuéllar is married to U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California. She attended the hearing along with the couple’s two children.

The high court position pays $225,342 a year.

The Commission on Judicial Appointments, when considering Supreme Court nominees, is comprised of California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, state Attorney General Kamala Harris and Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Judge Joan Dempsey Klein of this district’s Div. Three, the state’s senior presiding justice.

Following the Cuéllar confirmation, the commission held hearings for, and unanimously confirmed, three nominees to the Court of Appeal, all of whom will, like Cuéllar, be on the ballot in November.

Court of Appeal

Jonathan K. Renner, the governor’s legal affairs secretary, would succeed Cantil-Sakauye on the Third District Court of Appeal, from which she was elevated to chief justice in 2011.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lee S. Edmon would succeed Klein, who declined to seek retention and will leave office Jan. 5 after more than 36 years on the court and more than 51 years of judicial service.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brian M. Hoffstadt would succeed Justice Kathryn Doi Todd of this district’s Div. Two, who retired last year.


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