Friday, January 7, 2011
SACRAMENTO, Calif. He’s been in office for less than a week, but already Gov. Jerry Brown has another major appointment to make -- California Supreme Court Justice, and his selection will be closely watched.
Justice Carlos Moreno is stepping down at the end of next month. Rory Little is a Professor of Law at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. He said the move gives Gov. Jerry Brown a rare, early opportunity to make his mark.
“Jerry Brown is probably looking for someone young enough to continue whatever the Brown legacy is beyond the term of his office, so it’s a very important pick,” Little said. “It’s a very significant moment and you know, Jerry Brown will immediately be judged by the quality of his appointee.”
It won’t be Brown’s first Supreme Court nominee. The last time he was Governor, he made the controversial appointment of Rose Bird as Chief Justice. She angered social conservatives and was later ousted by voters along with two other justices. But Little said he doesn’t expect that will play a big role in Brown’s decision-making.
“My sense is Jerry Brown is approaching this Governorship completely fresh. I doubt he’s approaching the appointment feeling gee, I’ve got to avoid another Rose Bird controversy,” Little said.
Justice Moreno, the sole Democrat on the high court, was appointed by Governor Gray Davis in 2001. Dean Kevin Johnson of the UC Davis School of Law said he’ll likely be most remembered as the sole dissenter in the court’s ruling on Proposition 8, the state’s same-sex marriage ban. The court upheld the measure.
“I think that his willingness to stand up and to register an opinion on a controversial issue in a difficult time when he was in a distinct minority will go down in state judicial history as a monument or milestone,” Johnson said.
Moreno didn’t give a reason for stepping down, but said in a statement that he looked forward to “weighing his options in the private sector.”