I’ve filed a full story on Gov. Jerry Brown’s nomination of Cal law professor Goodwin Liu to the California Supreme Court, but space in the print editions is tight so there may not be room for all of the comments I’ve heard today.
Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, was on KQED Radio’s “Forum” this morning, representing the California Latino Legislative Caucus in a segment about Gov. Jerry Brown’s relationship with Latinos. The discussion included the question of when the governor might get around to replacing retired state Supreme Court Associate Justice Carlos Moreno, who’d been the court’s only Latino until his retirement in February. Even as they mused about it, the governor was appointing Liu, and now some people are voicing disappointment that the court will lack a Latino perspective.
“Gov. Brown has been very engaged in this process of choosing this replacement for Carlos Moreno, and it’s a thoughtful appointment,” Alejo told me this afternoon. “But I think the disappointment comes that threre certainly was a lost opportunity, there’s this larger question of will Gov. Brown make a concerted effort to appoint a record number of Latinos to the bench.”
Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, chairman emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, had staunchly supported President Obama’s 2010 nomination of Liu to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He issued a statement today saying this new nomination “positions California as a front runner in judicial diversity.”
“Goodwin is a personal friend and leader in my home state of California, and I have worked with him for many years, particularly in ensuring access and equity in our education system,” Honda said. “Not only has he been a leader in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, he has proven himself in the legal profession as well, with support from renowned legal minds from a diversity of ideological backgrounds. Goodwin is an excellent pick for California and as an acclaimed education and constitutional law scholar, he will undoubtedly add immense value to the Court under the leadership of Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.”
Maribel Medina – who chairs the judicial committee of La Raza Lawyers of California, the state’s Chicano/Latino bar association – said she has worked with Liu and knows he’s “an incredible scholar” with “a great commitment to civil rights.”
“But we are also very disappointed that our highest court will not reflect the diversity of this state. If you couple this action with the massive budget cuts the courts are suffering, it really jeopardizes the integrity of our judicial system,” she said. “This I think sends a very negative message to the people of California.”
Dan Schnur, a longtime Republican political strategist who now directs the University of Southern California’s Unruh Institute of Politics, said nominating Liu is “a great way for Brown to play to his base without upsetting the center.”
“By 2014, most voters are going to judge Liu less by what he has said and done in the past than by what he says and does on the court,” Schnur said. “Reasonable people can disagree over whether he will be an effective justice or not, but unless he starts overturning death penalties, it’s a pretty safe pick from a political standpoint.”
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who had staunchly supported Liu’s federal nomination, kept it short and sweet today. “Goodwin Liu is one of our country’s most brilliant constitutional scholars and he will make a superb justice on the California Supreme Court,” she said.