Gov. Newsom nominates Justice Patricia Guerrero as California’s next chief justice

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday appointed Justice Patricia Guerrero as the next chief justice of the California Supreme Court.

The nomination, which still needs to be confirmed by a state Judiciary Commission and voters in November, would promote 50-year-old Guerrero, currently the court’s youngest member, to her most senior role — in which she would continue to hear cases from the six associate justices of the Court, but also serves as Clerk of the High Court and Chair of the Judicial Council of California, which sets administrative policy for all state courts.

Newsom appointed Guerrero to the court as an associate judge in February, and she — the first Latina to serve on the court — was confirmed in March. His decision to elevate them above senior judges appointed by other governors further cemented his own hold on the court, and potentially for decades to come. Chief Justices have an initial term of 12 years but are renewable.

The nomination follows current Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye’s announcement two weeks ago that she would not seek a second term when her current term ends in January.

In a statement, Newsom said Guerrero had “established herself as a widely respected jurist with an impressive intellect and command of the law and a deep commitment to equal justice and public service.”

He said the Imperial Valley native “broke barriers as California’s first Latin American Supreme Court Justice, bringing her insights and deep understanding of the real-world impact of the court’s decisions on the lives of everyday Californians to our state’s highest court.” said he was “confident that the people of California will continue to be well served by their leadership for years to come.”

Guerrero said in her own statement that she was “humbled” about the nomination.

“If this is upheld, I look forward to continuing the steps the court under Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye has taken to expand equal access to justice and create a fairer justice system for all Californians,” Guerrero said.

Newsom also said he will appoint Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kelli Evans to the state Supreme Court to fill the spot vacated by Guerrero as an assistant judge.

He said Evans “is dedicated to helping all Californians have an equal chance at justice.”

“I saw firsthand her commitment to the highest ideals of public service and her passion for protecting and promoting the civil rights and liberties of all Californians,” Newsom said. “I have no doubt that her exemplary talent, breadth of knowledge and experience, strong moral compass and work ethic will make her an outstanding Supreme Court Justice.”

Evans said in a statement she was honored.

“I have worked my entire professional life to promote equality and access to justice and to protect the rights of some of the most disenfranchised members of society,” she said. “If this is confirmed, I look forward to advancing our state’s work to ensure equal justice before the law for all Californians.”

Newsom’s nominations are submitted to the State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation and are subject to approval by the Commission on Judicial Appointments.

Guerrero’s appointment as chief justice would also need voter approval in November, the governor’s office said.

This article will be updated. Gov. Newsom nominates Justice Patricia Guerrero as California’s next chief justice

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