Goodwin Liu, the UC Berkeley law professor whose federal appeals court appointment was blocked by Republicans, emerged on a judicial forum of at least equal stature Tuesday when he became Gov. Jerry Brown's first nominee to the California Supreme Court.
Liu's appointment to the court comes two months after his nomination to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco was scuttled by Senate filibuster. He would succeed Carlos Moreno, who retired in February as the only Democratic appointee on the seven-member state court.
Liu has "the background, the intellect and the vision to really help our California Supreme Court again be one of the great courts in the nation," Brown said at a news conference. He said the only criticism of Liu has come from "some of the more fanatical Republicans ... the ideologues on the right."
The governor had widely been expected to name a Latino. The state high court has no Latino or African American justices.
The new appointment would fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Justice Carlos R. Moreno, 62, the only Latino and only Democrat on the court. Moreno was appointed by former Gov. Gray Davis in 2001.
Some Latino bar leaders expressed anger and disappointment at Liu’s selection.
“It should have been a Latino and somebody who was native to Southern California,” said Victor Acevedo, president of the Mexican-American Bar Assn.
“We are almost the majority of the people of the state of California, and for the governor to say there isn’t one Latino who is qualified to serve on the court is extremely troubling,” he said. “That to me is like the governor turning a cold shoulder to the Latino community in Southern California.”
The court has no justices who currently reside in Southern California since the retirements of Moreno and Chief Justice Ronald M. George.