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Governor names Latino and Stanford law professor to Supreme Court

Gov. Jerry Brown nominated Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, a Stanford law professor and Mexican immigrant, for a seat on the California Supreme Court last month. If approved by the Commission on Judicial Appointments on Aug. 28 and retained by the voters in November, Cuéllar will succeed Justice Marvin R. Baxter in January.

Marino Florentino Cuellar
Cuéllar – Photo courtesy of Stanford University

Cuéllar’s nomination received a wave of media attention. The San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News focused on Cuéllar’s upbringing. As a boy, he walked 7 miles each way from his home in “a hardscrabble town along the Rio Grande in Mexico” to school in Texas. He would go on to receive a prestigious education at Harvard, Yale and Stanford.

The Recorder highlighted Cuéllar’s Silicon Valley background and expertise in immigration, global poverty and education inequality, and raised the issue of how it might be reflected in the work he does at the court.

The combination of Cuéllar and fellow academic Goodwin Liu, Brown’s previous appointee, “represent an infusion of youth on the court that until recently had a septuagenarian majority,” the Daily Journal reported. Liu is 43 and Cuéllar just turned 42.

The Los Angeles Times quoted legal analysts who speculated that Cuéllar’s appointment could shift the ideological balance of the court to the right.

The appointment relieves political pressure on Brown to appoint a Latino to the court, The Sacramento Bee reported. The court’s only Latino member, Justice Carlos R. Moreno, retired in 2011.

One vacancy remains on the court due to Justice Joyce L. Kennard’s retirement in April.