Appeals judge is first Latina appointed to California High Court

An appeals court judge who is the daughter of Mexican immigrants was named by Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday as the first Latina to serve on the California Supreme Court.

Judge Patricia Guerrero, 50, of San Diego, grew up in Imperial’s agricultural valley and has worked as a federal prosecutor, law firm partner, Superior Court judge and now sits on the United States Court of Justice. call from the 4th district.

“Her extraordinary journey and her appointment as the first Latina judge to the bench of our state’s highest court is an inspiration to us all and a testament to California Dream’s promise of opportunity for all to thrive, regardless of their background or zip code,” Newsom said in a statement.

If confirmed, Guerrero would fill the position left vacant in October when Associate Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar resigned to become president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Cuéllar was appointed to the court by former Governor Jerry Brown, also a Democrat.

The seven-member court is currently made up of four judges nominated by Democrats and two by Republicans. Another Brown candidate, Justice Leondra Kruger, is being considered by President Joe Biden to replace incumbent Justice Stephen Breyer on the United States Supreme Court.

The appointment was hailed by advocacy groups who pushed Newsom to appoint a Latina when Cuéllar announced he would step down in September. Guerrero’s name was mentioned at the time as a possible candidate for the opening.

Newsom has made diversity on the bench a priority. In 2020, he appointed the first openly gay judge, Martin Jenkins, who is the third black person to serve on the court.

Guerrero said in a statement that she was “deeply honored” to be selected and that if confirmed, she would “have a positive impact on the lives of Californians across the state.”

“I didn’t come here alone” Guerrero said in a video. “I stand on the shoulders of my parents and grandparents who came to this country for better opportunities for their children. I think it’s important for people to see that… they can achieve any dream they want with opportunity and hard work.

Guerrero’s grandfather came to the United States from the Mexican state of Sonora and obtained residency through a sponsor, she said. When his father arrived, he first worked picking crops. Her mother, who recently died of breast cancer, stressed the importance of reading and education and said there were no limits to what her children could achieve.

Guerrero worked at a grocery store as a teenager and was valedictorian at his high school. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford Law School.

Newsom said Guerrero was well-regarded with a “quick legal mind” and a wide range of experience. She has written opinions protecting the rights of consumers and individuals, while defending the constitutional rights of defendants.

Despite the growing influence of Latinos, who are the largest racial or ethnic group of California’s nearly 40 million people, no Latina has served in statewide constitutional office or as a U.S. senator, said Sonja Diaz, founding director of UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative. .

Latinas sit in the high courts of Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, New York and Texas, Diaz said.

“Latinas make up nearly 20 percent of California’s population, yet we are underrepresented in almost every sector, including the California justice system,” said Senator María Elena Durazo, chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus. “When Latinas are absent from this vital branch of government, our experiences and perspectives are excluded, and it ripples through our communities in so many other ways.”

Retired California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno noted that Guerrero would also bring some geographic diversity to the court. The Imperial Valley, a poor agricultural region that borders Mexico and Arizona, is an often overlooked part of the state.

“With her extensive experience handling complex litigation, her intellectual rigor, and her commitment to fairness and equality, Justice Guerrero is well equipped to navigate the most complex legal issues in our justice system and will be a great addition to our state’s highest court,” Moreno mentioned.

Guerrero’s nomination will be submitted to the State Bar Commission on the Evaluation of Judicial Candidates and must be confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments.

The Commission is made up of Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Rob Bonta and State Court of Appeals Senior Presiding Judge Manuel A. Ramirez.

Guerrero would receive a salary of $274,000.

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