Thursday, June 1, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Gov. Brown Diversifies State Bench

SACRAMENTO (CN) - Gov. Jerry Brown introduced several firsts to California's judicial system during his third term, including its first openly lesbian appeal justice.

Brown made 237 judicial appointees between 2011 and 2014, nearly 40 percent of them minorities. Of the 76 judges he appointed in 2014, 35 were minorities.

Notable appointees included Therese M. Stewart the first openly lesbian justice to serve on the California Court of Appeal, and Paul Lo, the first Hmong American judge ever appointed in the nation.

Stewart helped persuade the California State Supreme Court to overturn a gay marriage ban in 2008. Lo has been a solo legal practitioner since 2003.

Brown has the highest minority and women judicial appointee rate of any California governor, according to a report from his office.

Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar and Leondra Kruger were Brown's appointees to the California Supreme Court in 2014; neither had prior bench experience. Kruger, who is African-American, was a deputy assistant attorney general in Washington, D.C., where she argued 12 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Cuellar was a law professor at Stanford.

Brown, who introduced the first openly gay and lesbian justices during his first term, is known for his willingness to appoint justices without prior experience. The report showed that 70 percent of sitting justices are white.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.