SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Joshua Groban, legal adviser to outgoing California Governor Jerry Brown, sailed through his confirmation hearing Friday to become a California Supreme Court justice after a unanimous vote.
“I want to thank the governor for having the confidence to select me,” Groban said after the vote. “I will try every day to fulfill the promise he saw in me.”
Groban didn’t lack for glowing comments from supporters who testified before the Commission on Judicial Appointments Friday.
“Josh is warm, affable, engaging and unpretentious. He is open to all points of view. He has a keen mind and ferrets out inconsistencies and ambiguities in the law with a twinkle in his eye. What matters is getting the right result,” said Justice Arthur Gilbert before the panel made up of Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra and First Appellate District Presiding Justice J. Anthony Kline.
“Josh is a mensch. The collegiately and mutual respect that exists in the court will continue with Josh as a member,” Gilbert said.
Brown appointed Groban in November to fill the vacancy left by the 2017 retirement of Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar.
While Groban brings with him raft of legal experience, he completes a series of Supreme Court justices appointed by Brown with no previous experience on the bench. This was an issue raised by Kline.
“Wait a minute, Arthur,” he said.
“Everything you say about Josh Groban I know to be true. I know he’s qualified to sit on the California Supreme Court. I don’t think those are the issues that some of you are thinking about. If he is confirmed, then a majority of the members of the California Supreme court will consist of people who have never previously sat on a court.
“During the 16 years that Jerry Brown was governor, he nominated 11 people to the Supreme Court. A majority of them had not previously served as judges. There are people in the judicial and legal community who don’t think it’s healthy for a court to be dominated at least numerically by people who have never sat in the judicial trenches.”
Kline said he had discussed the issue with Groban on several occasions before he was nominated, and that it was Groban’s view the vacancy should be filled by either a trial judge or justice.
“I’m confident Josh Groban is not Dick Cheney. I don’t believe he engineered this. He believed that, at least that’s what he told me and I agree,” Kline said. “What advice would you give him to allay this concern that many judges and lawyers have?”
Gilbert said he had also discussed the issue at length with Groban, who had already sought his advice.
“It’s true he doesn’t have trial experience and I’ve heard this complaint just in general. We can’t always tell how a judge is going to turn out. You have a point. But he is so interested in seeking out views and he has such a warm connection with other and a sympathy and a kind of understanding of human nature, that I think he’s going to be a superb justice despite not having been down in the trenches,” Gilbert said.
A practicing lawyer, Groban spent eight years in Sacramento as Brown’s senior adviser on policy and appointments. As part of the job, he vetted some 600 appointments to the judiciary and has been heralded for his role in diversifying the bench dramatically in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation and type of practice. He also served as legal counsel for Brown’s campaign in 2010.