San Diego Appellate Court Judge Patricia Guerrero was confirmed by a 3-0 Commission on Judicial Appointments vote on Tuesday as the next California Supreme Court Justice.
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Born in the Imperial Valley to Mexican immigrant parents, Guerrero graduated from UC Berkeley in 1994 and earned a legal degree from Stanford University in 1997. For the next 15 years she was a lawyer in Southern California, with a brief stint as an Assistant U.S. Attorney between 2002 and 2003. In June 2013 she was appointed as a judge to the San Diego Superior Court, a position which she held until late 2017 when she was nominated and confirmed as an Appellate judge.
As an Appellate judge in the Fourth District Court of Appeals for the last 5 years, Guerrero has earned a reputation as a dedicated judge. While there are many stories of her working late nights and on days off to get court work done, she most famously finished a criminal hearing brief while being driven to the hospital in labor with her son.
However, Guerrero has also issued some controversial rulings since being elevated, such as a 2020 ruling that made Amazon liable for defective third-party products and put a large part of their business (60% of Amazon’s products come through third parties) in California in a bind.
Despite many business sectors and other groups not enthused about Guerrero being nominated due to her ruling history, she soon found herself in talks to move to the California Supreme Court. In September of 2021, California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuellar announced his resignation from the bench effective October 31st to become president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace international affairs think tank in Washington, D.C. Gov. Gavin Newsom was quickly pressured by Latino and equality groups to pick a Latino to replace the Cuellar, with most calling for Newsom to pick the first Latina for the state Supreme Court. Last month, Newsom continued to pare down his list and ultimately chose Guerrero for the nomination.
Guerrero confirmed as next CSC Justice
“Justice Guerrero learned the value of hard work and helping those in need from an early age, lessons she has carried throughout her life to lift up others and advance equity and inclusion. As we continue to make strides in building a judiciary more representative of our state’s diversity, Justice Guerrero will bring her rich background and experiences to important decisions that impact the daily lives of every Californian,” said Newsom in a speech last month. “Serving on our state’s Supreme Court, I’m confident that she will continue her tireless work to ensure that our cherished rights and freedoms are protected for all Californians.”
While many nominees faced longer and more question-heavy processes due to more controversial pasts as judges such as Newsom’s last approved Supreme Court nominee Martin Jenkins, Guerrero quickly made it through the nomination process. She received no opposition at her hearing, with Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye even noting the lack of opposition. They quickly found her to be qualified and noted numerous abilities that would be valued on the Supreme Court, such as her passion for the job and how she often finds consensus with other judges in rulings.
“Justice Guerrero is phenomenal on multiple levels,” said Commission chairwoman Stella Ngai. “She is universally lauded for her superior intellect, clear writing, judicial temperament, work ethic and compassion.”
Following the 3-0 vote on Tuesday, Guerrero expressed that becoming a Justice on the court was her meeting the American Dream, thanking her parents in the process.
“As I’ve tried to express, this is not just about me, or really even just about my parents, but it’s about so many others just like us,” added Guerrero. “This is a story of the American Dream, the belief that with hard work, perseverance and opportunities, anything is possible. And for that I am thankful. My mother taught us to be strong, compassionate, and independent. She showed us the importance of family. She showed us to thank God for our blessings. And she showed us that we should help other people when we can. She sacrificed everything for us.”
While Guerrero becoming Justice was applauded by members from both parties, some observers noted that, despite Guerrero being seen as one of the safest judicial choices in years due to Guerrero’s dedication and non-controversial nature, she could still prove to have a few issues in the coming months.
“Guerrero is seen as a great choice,” said legal advisor Alicia Brooks to the Globe on Tuesday. “She comes in with no red flags, a great track record, and is now the first Latina justice in state history. But, on the top level, she is still not tested. She has lots of Appellate experience, but the Supreme Court is a different animal. And for many justices, it’s where true colors come out, whether it be odd conservative bends from who were thought to be liberal justices or vice versa. Again, she seems like the closest thing to a perfect pick, but some are reserving judgement until she goes through some cases and really shows if she is up to it.”
Guerrero, who will receive a salary of $274,000 as a California Supreme Court Justice, is to be sworn in by Governor Newsom at a later date.
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