Longtime immigrant advocate is first Latina confirmed to California Supreme Court

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California’s Supreme Court got its first Latina justice on Tuesday when a state commission upheld Gov. Gavin Newsom’s nomination of Patricia Guerrero, a San Diego appellate judge and longtime immigrant advocate.

The Judicial Appointments Commission voted 3-0 to approve the selection of Newsom de Guerrero to succeed Judge Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, who left the court in late October to become president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a research and nonprofit advocacy. Appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015, he was the court’s fourth Latino judge, all male.

Guerrero, 50, was appointed by Brown to the San Diego County Superior Court in 2013 and became its supervising family law judge before Brown appointed her to the San Diego Fourth District Court of Appeals. Diego in 2017.

Unlike the controversial ongoing hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee on President Biden’s nomination of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court, Guerrero’s 45-minute hearing in San Francisco was a friendly affair. , with the testimony of three witnesses in support – colleagues from his former law firm and his two previous judicial positions.

The State Judicial Candidate Evaluation Commission gave Guerrero its highest rating, “exceptionally qualified.”

After the vote, she hugged her father and husband, paid tribute to her mother, who recently died of breast cancer, and vowed to “uphold the rule of law and uphold the values ​​of this state and from this country”.

The daughter of immigrants from Mexico, Guerrero was born in Brawley (Imperial County) and started working in a grocery store at age 16. She continued to work to pay her expenses while attending UC Berkeley and Stanford Law School, graduating with honors. She joined the law firm Latham & Watkins in 1997 and remained there until her judicial appointment, except for a year as a federal prosecutor in San Diego in 2002-03.

She has done unpaid work on immigration cases as a lawyer, assisting asylum seekers and on housing discrimination cases, and served on the Advisory Board of the Immigration Justice Project of the American Bar Association, which provides legal services to immigrants. Guerrero has also worked through the Judicial Council’s Judges in the Classroom program, which sends judges to schools across the state to discuss legal matters.

“I love this program,” especially teaching fourth and fifth graders, she said Tuesday in response to a question. “I tell them that I am like them. … They can do whatever they want, they can also achieve their dreams.

One of its rulings, in August 2020, resulted in Amazon being sued for defects in a product advertised on its website and stored and shipped by its warehouse, a laptop battery that exploded and seriously burned a woman. Although Amazon didn’t manufacture the battery, it was “essential in bringing the product…to the consumer,” Guerrero wrote. in a 3-0 decision. In a similar vein, a San Francisco appeals court ruled this month that Amazon could be sued for failing to warn the public that products sold on its website could cause reproductive harm. or cancer.

Another Guerrero ruling, in April 2020, allowed county judges to require defendants to post bail, despite a directive from the State Judicial Board that reduced bail to zero for nearly all charges. misdemeanor and most non-violent crimes in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic.

Her confirmation gives the Democratic nominees a 5-2 majority on the ground. But judges reach consensus in most of their decisions, including death sentences, which they usually uphold. Cuéllar was one of the more liberal judges, and sometimes joined Judge Goodwin Liu in dissents over momentous cases and other rulings.

Guerrero is well-suited to her new job, said appeals court president Judith McConnell, because she “can work well with people of different viewpoints.”

The court also now has a 4-3 majority of women and is one of the most diverse in the country, with two black judges – one of them, Martin Jenkins, its first openly gay judge – both American-born Asian and a Latina, Newsom recently reported. of the 169 judges he had appointed since taking office in 2019, 49% were women and 56% were non-white.

The commission members who confirmed Guerrero were Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Rob Bonta and senior state appeals court judge Manuel Ramirez of Riverside. Guerrero will be on the November ballot for confirmation of Cuéllar’s last four years in office. The job brings in $274,732 a year.

Bob Egelko is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @BobEgelko

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