Gov. Jerry Brown’s Legacy: Diversifying the Judicial Bench
January 3, 2019 (San Francisco Chronicle)
By Bob Egelko
Outgoing California Governor Jerry Brown swore in his last appointee to the state Supreme Court, former legal adviser Joshua Groban, and wrapped up eight years of judicial appointments Thursday, the most diverse in California history.
Of the 644 judges chosen by Brown since 2011, 44 percent were women and nearly 40 percent identified themselves as non-white, according to figures released by the governor’s office. Nearly 6 percent were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. All those percentages are records for the state.
The judges were all screened by Groban, who served in Brown’s office before joining the state’s high court Thursday to succeed Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, who retired in August 2017. The vacancy was the longest in the court’s history and has been filled by a succession of appeals court justices, chosen in alphabetical order to hear the court’s monthly calendar of arguments.
Groban, 45, also advised Brown on legal and public policy issues. He formerly practiced law in Los Angeles and has taught classes in state appellate practice at UCLA Law School since 2015.
At the swearing-in ceremony in Sacramento, Brown, who is also a lawyer, said the court’s task was “taking the utter complexity and making it as clear, as simple and as just as possible. It’s a high calling, and Josh, I think you’re eminently equipped.”
Groban becomes Brown’s fourth appointee to the seven-member court, which now has a majority of Democratic appointees for the first time since 1986. In that year, Chief Justice Rose Bird and two other Brown appointees, Justices Joseph Grodin and Cruz Reynoso, were denied new terms by the voters after a campaign that was funded by businesses but focused on their votes to overturn death sentences.
Judicial diversity is nothing new for Brown. In his first eight years as governor, from 1975 to 1983, he named the state high court’s first woman, Bird, its first Latino, Reynoso, and its first two black justices, Wiley Manuel and Allen Broussard. He also appointed the nation’s first openly gay and lesbian judges.
His appointments during his final eight years included the state appeals courts’ first openly gay and lesbian justices, James Humes and Therese Stewart, both serving in San Francisco.