Governor Gavin Newsom nominated Fourth District Court of Appeal Justice Patricia Guerrero to the California Supreme Court on Tuesday, hoping to fill a vacancy that has been there since November.
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 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 usual off days to get court work done, she most famously finished a criminal hearing brief while being driven to the hospital in labor with her son.
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. Governor Newsom was quickly pressured by many Latino and equality groups to pick a Latino to replace the Latino Cuellar, with most calls wanting Newsom to pick the first Latina for the state Supreme Court.
After months of paring down candidates and vetting, Newsom chose Guerrero on Tuesday. In a press release, Newsom made note of Geurrero’s work ethic as well as the diversity she would bring to the bench.
“A keen legal mind and well-regarded jurist, Justice Guerrero’s wide-ranging experience, integrity, deep respect for the rule of law and lifelong commitment to public service make her a phenomenal candidate to serve as our next California Supreme Court Justice,” said Governor Newsom. “Born and raised in the Imperial Valley by immigrant parents from Mexico, her extraordinary journey and nomination to serve as the first Latina Justice on the bench of our state’s highest court is an inspiration to all of us and a testament to the California Dream’s promise of opportunity for all to thrive, regardless of background or zip code.”
“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. 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.”
Guerrero thanked the Governor and promised that, if sworn in, she would help keep “equality and integrity” in the the judicial system.
“I am deeply honored by this incredible opportunity to uphold the rule of law and make a positive impact on the lives of Californians across the state,” said Justice Guerrero on Tuesday. “If confirmed, I look forward to helping instill confidence in the equality and integrity of our judicial system while honoring the sacrifices of my immigrant parents and demonstrating to young people that anything is possible in our wonderful and diverse country.”
Legal experts noted on Wednesday that Guerrero is one of the safest choices for the bench that also helps Newsom keep up the diversity of the Supreme Court.
“Newsom wants to pick people with diverse backgrounds for the Supreme Court to roughly scale to the state’s demographics, and by picking a Latina, the first, for the court, he definitely meets that,” said legal advisor Alicia Brooks to the Globe on Wednesday. “Guerrero is as non-offensive as they come, and is known more for her work ethic than her views. And her views are not firebrand, which have red-flagged other potential nominees in the past, with her personal and work life being free of any controversies. She’s been vetted before and they found nothing.”
“Right now, in an election year with Republicans looking at anything to nail him or any other Democrat on, Newsom can’t boost up a judge who tends to lean too hard to one side either. Guerrero fits the bill perfectly for the ideal candidate this time around. They did their homework.”
Guerrero is expected to go to a Commission on Judicial Appointments confirmation soon. It is widely expected that they will confirm her as the next justice.