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Thursday, July 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Newsom picks Justice Patricia Guerrero to lead California high court

If approved by voters in November, Guerrero will replace retiring Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — Just months after being sworn in as the first Latina on the California Supreme Court, Justice Patricia Guerrero has made history again with Governor Gavin Newsom announcing Wednesday that he chose Guerrero as the next chief justice.

“I am humbled by this nomination to lead our state’s Supreme Court and thank the governor for entrusting me with this honor,” Guerrero said in a statement Wednesday.

If confirmed by voters in November, Guerrero will become the first Latina to lead the state's highest court, replacing retiring Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who last month that she will not seek another term.

The daughter of immigrants from Mexico, Guerrero, 50, grew up in the Imperial Valley and worked to put herself through the University of California, Berkeley. She earned her juris doctorate at Stanford Law School in 1997.

She started her law career as an associate at Latham and Watkins LLP in 2003, becoming a partner in 2007. Governor Jerry Brown appointed Guerrero to the San Diego Superior Court bench in 2013 and to the Fourth Appellate District in 2017.

Newsom appointed Guerrero to the Supreme Court bench in February. At a confirmation hearing before the Commission on Judicial Appointments in March, Guerrero was praised for her keen legal mind and work ethic.

“Justice Guerrero has established herself as a widely respected jurist with a formidable intellect and command of the law and deep commitment to equal justice and public service,” Newsom said in a statement Wednesday. “A first-generation Californian from the Imperial Valley, Justice Guerrero broke barriers as California’s first Latina Supreme Court Justice, enriching our state’s highest court with her insights and deep understanding of the real-world impacts of the court’s decisions in the lives of everyday Californians. I thank Justice Guerrero for her willingness to step into this role and am confident that the people of California will continue to be well served by her leadership for years to come.”

Newsom also picked Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kelli Evans, 53, to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by Justice Guerrero's elevation.

Evans served as Newsom's chief deputy legal affairs secretary until 2021, when Newsom appointed her to the trial court.

She said in a statement that she is "truly honored" by the opportunity to serve Californians as a member of the Supreme Court.

"I have worked my entire career to promote equality and access to justice and to protect the rights of some of society’s most disenfranchised members," Evans said. "If confirmed, I look forward to furthering our state’s work to ensure equal justice under the law for all Californians.”

Cantil-Sakauye, whose term expires Jan. 1, 2023, congratulated Guerrero and Evans in a statement sent to Courthouse News.

“I am proud to congratulate my colleague Justice Guerrero on her nomination as the first Latina and third woman to serve as chief justice of California, and also to Judge Kelli Evans on her nomination as associate justice to the Supreme Court."

She said she looks forward to learning more about both Guerrero and Evans when the Commission on Judicial Appointments holds its hearing on their nominations.

In a statement, Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, said both Guerrero and Evans are “impeccably qualified” and called their nominations historic. “They will lead the California Supreme Court in using the California Constitution and California law to advance freedom and equality,” Chemerinsky said.

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